Valijakompass is a Voting Advice Application (VAA) aiming at helping citizens make an informed choice in the 2023 Estonian parliamentary election. Available in Estonian, Russian and English, Valijakompass invites users to react to 35 policy statements covering a wide range of contemporary policy issues and political values in Estonian politics. Developed by the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, in close collaboration with the Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies (University of Tartu) and Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR), Valijakompass provides voters with a clear view of the Estonian electoral campaign and the parties' positions within it. The tool’s strong scientific background makes it interesting not only to the general public, but also to academics, experts and policy makers. It is important to note that this tool is politically neutral. Valijakompass is developed by academics for the wider public – it explicitly is not aiming at favouring any political party or candidate. Note also that Valijakompass can be used completely free of cost by whatever interested person, organisation or institution. The code of the software of Valijakompass is based on a previous VAA built for the European elections of 2019, euandi2019, originally developed by the Zurich (Switzerland) based company xUpery Ltd. under the name “Societly”. Societly is a functioning VAA software that is available for free, under an MIT license, on www.GitHub.com.
How does it work?
Valijakompass represents a means for voters to gain an unobstructed view of the Estonian political space, and their place within it. This space is defined by the policies of the parties competing in the 2023 Estonian parliamentary election. Valijakompass provides users a political profile based on their responses to a list of 35 policy statements. Users can react to each and every issue statement by stating their level of agreement on a standard five-point scale ranging from ‘completely agree’ to ‘completely disagree’ plus a ‘no opinion’ option. The user’s political profile can then be examined in relation to the 8 Estonian parties.
Selecting the statements
It goes almost without saying that the quality of Valijakompass depends first and foremost on the statements we chose. This is not a very simple task and the Valijakompass team spent quite a bit of time on this. Our first criterion was to look for statements that are politically relevant. Whether one likes Wagner more than Verdi cannot become a statement. However, whether the value added tax for food products should be reduced is an excellent statement to include: it is so because parties running in the campaign take up very different positions vis-à-vis this issue. And this is what we were looking for: statements on which there is disagreement between the parties. Furthermore, we wanted to cover the issues at stake in the Estonian election campaign as broadly as possible. For this, the team of Estonian political scientists who worked on coding the party positions suggested a number of relevant statements. Some of the statements are directly taken from traditional survey questions, allowing us to validate/compare our data with other sources. We also tried to re-use statements from earlier editions of Valijakompass and transnational VAAs, such as the EU Profiler (EP elections 2009), euandi (EP elections 2014 and 2019). Eventually, 38 statements were selected, and all 8 parties were placed on these statements; then, these statements were empirically analysed to see if any of them were not polarizing the parties enough (i.e., all parties were taking the same stance) or remained too ambiguous for parties to take a clear stance on. Finally 3 statements were dropped out, and the definitive list of 35 statements was included in Valijakompass.
Coding the parties
Parties running in the 2023 Estonian parliamentary election and selected by the Valijakompass team for inclusion in the tool were placed, statement by statement, by the Valijakompass ‘coders’ (team members taking care of the party placement). Our coders were asked to specify what documentation they had used in order to place parties. According to the Valijakompass methodology, they relied on a number of sources hierarchically ordered – the top being the party’s own electoral manifesto. In instances where the party has not released any opinion, the researchers referred to other party manifestos, party websites, statements in the media and other secondary sources. Also, parties themselves took part in the placement process and provided potential sources. If no public statement was found, but the party still wanted to take a position with regard to a statement, party representatives gave a short explanation to the Valijakompass team to justify their position. All these sources are also visible to the users of Valijakompass. Here is the rank-ordered list of main categories of sources:
• Current (2023) parliamentary election manifesto;
• Party programme
• Other programmatic and official party documentation;
• Interviews, press releases and social media communication from party leader or other leading candidates;
• Older election manifestos;
• Other sources.
In order to ensure the highest possible level of reliability among coders, the team leader ran additional checks before finalising the process of party placement. Where there were discrepancies, a final answer was identified by the team leader in agreement with the coder responsible for that political party and the party itself, always aiming at complete impartiality and independence.
The project’s primary goal is that of providing a webpage where Estonian voters (or anyone interested in Estonian poltics) can simultaneously learn about parties’ positions and their own place in politics. As with every VAA, the makers of Valijakompass aim primarily at helping voters make a well-informed decision. At the same time, and unlike most VAAs, it is the declared objective of Valijakompass to provide scientists with a rich source of academically valuable data. The coding of Estonian parties’ positions on 35 issues will result in a rich dataset of Estonian party positions. The dataset, including supporting material and coding documentation, will then be made freely available to scholars and to the public at large. For further information on the handling of data, please see the related privacy statement on this site.
The Valijakompass team
The Valijakompass’s scientific leadership is shared between Dr. Lorenzo Cicchi and Dr. Andres Reiljan (respectively at the European University Institute and University of Tartu), who were supported by the advisory board members Prof Dr. Alexander H. Trechsel (University of Luzern) and Prof. Dr. Diego Garzia (University of Lausanne). The full team is the following:
Andres Reiljan (project co-director)
Lorenzo Cicchi (project co-director)
Alexander H. Trechsel (advisory board member)
Diego Garzia (advisory board member)
Lorenzo Corsani (tech coordinator)
Ingo Linsenmann (financial and administrative coordinator)
Martina Popova (media and outreach coordinator)
Simone Ottaviano (tech support)
Stefano Brocchi (tech support)
Roberta Igliozzi (tech support)
Liisa Talving (country team coder)
Villem Lõbu (country team coder)
Karl Lõoke (country team coder)
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