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Poll confirms web tool encouraged youth to vote

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

More than 10,000 young people aged between 18 and 34 were influenced to vote in last year’s general election by the efforts of an interactive web tool designed by Massey University graduates.

A Horizon Research survey of voting behaviour at last September’s election showed that On The Fence was the most effective initiative focused on increasing youth voter turnout.

The survey asked eligible voters whether they were aware of the Virgin Voter Collective campaign to raise youth voter participation, and which initiatives influenced their decision to vote.

The survey, which had a margin of error of three per cent, showed that 33.500 eligible voters aged 18-34 were aware of the Virgin Voter Collective campaign with 31.7 per cent of them (or 10,619) influenced to vote by On The Fence.

On the Fence was itself an umbrella initiative devised by the Design and Democracy Project led by Massey design lecturer Karl Kane.

Master of Design graduate Kieran Stowers developed On The Fence from a prototype he designed for the 2011 General Election with fellow students in an undergraduate paper.

Using the backdrop of sheep down on the farm - a play on the notion that people are sheep and follow their friends -On The Fence asked users to indicate how much they agreed with two statements that relate to policy issues of the day. A best match was then calculated to identify the parties most compatible to their views.

The matches were generated via a specially built back-end database built alongside Wellington’s Springload design agency. The data came from an independent panel of specialists that included political scientists, journalists and bloggers.

Virgin Voter Collective manager Hannah Duder says the figure showed that On The Fence was the most effective in terms of its reach and impact of all the campaigns that also included initiatives such as RockEnrol.

Vote Compass, a popular web-voting tool devised by TVNZ, was not surveyed as it encouraged all age groups to use it and not just youth voters.

Mr Kane says the success of On The Fence "shows how effective people-centred collaborative design thinking can be in engaging those voices and perspectives disproportionately missing from our political processes. The Design and Democracy Project’s work helped empower young people by providing a platform for them to participate on their own terms."

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