Improving candidate-based voting advice application design

The case of Finland




voting advice applications [], candidate-based VAA, VAA design, Finland, design science research


Voting advice applications (VAAs) seek to strengthen democracy by assisting voters in voting-related decision-making. VAAs have become popular tools across many European democracies and their usage has been linked to real life electoral consequences. As VAA usage has become more prominent, this has also sparked research interest toward VAA design. However, most of the VAA design research has been conducted on party-based VAAs, whereas candidate-based VAAs that are in use in countries such as Finland, Denmark and Switzerland have been largely ignored. Moreover, research on overall VAA designs, in comparison to individual VAA design elements, is non-existent. This article discusses interdependencies of VAA design choices and proposes overall VAA designs that can improve existing Finnish candidate-based VAA designs, encouraging Finnish VAA developers to update their designs. Future research should develop and test the suggested designs, as more research on the topic is needed, especially regarding VAA user experiences.


Agathokleous, M., Tsapatsoulis, N., & Katakis, I. (2013). On the Quantification of Missing Value Impact on Voting Advice Applications. In L. Iliadis, H. Papadopoulos and C. Jayne (Eds.), Engineering Applications of Neural Networks, EANN 2013 (pp. 496-505). Communications in Computer and Information Science, vol 383. Springer.

Ananny, M., & Crawford, K. (2018). Seeing without knowing: Limitations of the transparency ideal and its application to algorithmic accountability. New Media & Society, 20(3), 973–989.

Borg, S., & Koljonen, K. (2020). Käyttöliittymä vaaleihin. Tampere University Press.

Bruinsma, B. (2020). Evaluating Visualisations in Voting Advice Applications. Statistics, Politics and Policy, 11(1), 1-21.

Dahlgaard, J. O. (2016). You just made it: Individual incumbency advantage under Proportional Representation. Electoral Studies, 44, 319–328.

Diakopoulos, N. (2016). Accountability in algorithmic decision making. Communications of the ACM, 59(2), 56–62.

Downs, A. (1957). An Economic Theory of Democracy. Harper & Row Publishers.

Flanagan, M., Howe, D. C., & Nissenbaum, H. (2008). Embodying values in technology: Theory and practice. In J. van den Hoven and J. Weckert (Eds.), Information technology and moral philosophy (pp. 322–353). Cambridge University Press.

Fossen, T., & Anderson, J. (2014). What’s the point of voting advice applications? Competing perspectives on democracy and citizenship. Electoral Studies, 36, 244–251.

Fossen, T., & van den Brink, B. (2015). Electoral Dioramas: On the Problem of Representation in Voting Advice Applications. Representations, 51(3), 341–358.

Garzia, D., & Marschall, S. (2019). Voting advice applications. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics.

Gemenis, K. (2013). Estimating parties’ policy positions through voting advice applications: Some methodological considerations. Acta Politica, 48(3), 268–295.

Gemenis, K., & Rosema, M. (2014). Voting Advice Applications and electoral turnout. Electoral Studies, 36, 281–289.

Gemenis, K., & van Ham, C. (2014). Comparing Methods for Estimating Parties’ Positions in Voting Advice Applications. In D. Garzia and S. Marschall (Eds.), Matching Voters with Parties and Candidates: Voting Advice Applications in a Comparative Perspective (pp. 33–48). ECPR Press.

Germann, M., Mendez, F., Wheatley, J., & Serdült, U. (2015). Spatial maps in voting advice applications: The case for dynamic scale validation. Acta Politica, 50(2), 214–238.

Gutmann, A., & Thompson, D. (1996). Democracy and disagreement. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Habermas, J. (1996). Between facts and norms: contributions to a discourse theory of law and democracy. Polity Press.

Helsingin Sanomat (2019). HS vaalikone: Eduskuntavaalit 2019. Retrieved 10 March 2021 from

Helsingin Sanomat (13.3.2019). Feministit ovat aattellisesti hyvin lähellä vihreitä, mutta erojakin ehdokkaiden vaalikonekannoissa löytyy. Retrieved 8 March 2021 from

Hooghe, L., Marks, G., & Wilson, C. J. (2002). Does Left/Right Structure Party Positions on European Integration? Comparative Political Studies, 35(8), 965–989.

Isotalo, V. (2020). Designing Voting Advice Applications: The Finnish Case. Master’s thesis.

Isotalo, V., Mattila, M., & von Schoultz, Å. (2020). Ideological mavericks or party herd? The effect of candidates’ ideological positions on intra-party success. Electoral Studies, 67.

Janssen, M., & Kuk, G. (2016). The challenges and limits of big data algorithms in technocratic governance. Government Information Quarterly, 33(3), 371–377.

Kauppinen, T. (2007). Vaalikoneiden tekninen toteutus ja kehittämistarpeet. In M. Suojanen and J. Talponen (Eds.), Vallaton vaalikone (pp. 127–156). SoPhi, 103.

Kemper, J. &, Kolkman, D. (2019). Transparent to whom? No algorithmic accountability without a critical audience. Information, Communication & Society, 22(14), 2081–2096.

Ladner, A. (2016). Do VAAs Encourage Issue Voting and Promissory Representation? Evidence From the Swiss Smartvote. Policy & Internet, 8(4), 412–430.

Lau, R. R., & Redlawsk, D. P. (2006). How voters decide: Information processing in election campaigns. Cambridge University Press.

Lefevere, J., & Walgrave, S. (2014). A perfect match? The impact of statement selection on voting advice applications’ ability to match voters and parties. Electoral Studies, 36, 252–262.

Lindtner, S., & Lin, C. (2017). Making and its promises. CoDesign, 13(2), 70-82.

Marschall, S., & Garzia, D. (2014). Voting advice applications in a comparative perspective: an introduction. In D. Garzia and S. Marschall (Eds.), Matching voters with parties and candidates: Voting advice applications in comparative perspective (pp. 1–10). ECPR Press.

Mendez, F. (2017). Modeling proximity and directional decisional logic: What can we learn from applying statistical learning techniques to VAA-generated data? Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, 27(1), 31–55.

Merrill, S., & Grofman, B. (1999). A Unified Theory of Voting: Directional and Proximity Spatial Models. Cambridge University Press.

Munzert, S., & Ramirez Ruiz, S. (2021). Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Voting Advice. Political Communication.

Palacin Silva, M. V., Nelimarkka, M., Reynolds-Cuéllar, P., & Becker, C. (2020). The Design of Pseudo-Participation. In C. del Gaudio, L. Parra, S. Agid, C. Parra, G. Poderi, D. Duque, . . . P. Escandón (Eds.), PDC '20: Proceedings of the 16th Participatory Design Conference 2020 - Participation(s) Otherwise - Volume 2 (pp. 40–44). ACM.

Paloheimo, H. (1988). Eduskuntavaalien 1987 kannatussiirtymät. Politiikka, 1/1988, 65–77.

Paloheimo, H. (2005). Puoluevalinnan tilannetekijät. In H. Paloheimo (Ed.), Vaalit ja demokratia Suomessa (pp. 202–228). WSOY.

Paloheimo, H. (2008). Ideologiat ja ristiriitaulottuvuudet. In H. Paloheimo and T. Raunio (Eds.), Suomen puolueet ja puoluejärjestelmä (pp. 27–60). WSOY.

Pasquale, F. (2015). The black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms That Control Money and Information. Harvard University Press.

Peffers, K., Tuunanen, T., Rothenberger, M. A., & Chatterjee, S. (2007). A design science research methodology for information systems research. Journal of management information systems, 24(3), 45–77.

Rabinowitz, G., & Macdonald, S. (1989). A Directional Theory of Issue Voting. The American Political Science Review, 83(1), 93–121.

Rosema, M., & Louwerse, T. (2016). Response Scales in Voting Advice Applications: Do Different Designs Produce Different Outcomes? Policy and Internet, 8(4), 431–456.

Setälä, M. (2003). Demokratian arvo: teoriat, käytännöt ja mahdollisuudet. Gaudeamus.

Shugart, M. S., Valdini, M. E., & Suominen, K. (2005). Looking for locals: Voter information demands and personal vote-earning attributes of legislators under proportional representation. American Journal of Political Science, 49(2), 437–449.

Suojanen, M. (2007). Vaalikoneen lyhyt historia. In M. Suojanen and J. Talponen (Eds.), Vallaton vaalikone (pp. 13–28). SoPhi, 103.

Suomen virallinen tilasto (2019). Väestön tieto- ja viestintätekniikan käyttö. Tilastokeskus. Retrieved 11 March 2021 from

van Aken, J. (2015). What is Design Science Reasearch? An operationalization of DSR for the social domain in seven statements. Design Science Research institute.

van de Pol, J., Holleman, B., Kamoen, N., Krouwel, A., & de Vreese, C. (2014). Beyond Young, Highly Educated Males: A Typology of VAA Users. Journal of Information Technology & Politics, 11(4), 397–411.

van der Linden, C., & Dufresne, Y. (2017). The curse of dimensionality in Voting Advice Applications: reliability and validity in algorithm design. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, 27(1), 9–30.

Wagner, M., & Ruusuvirta, O. (2012). Matching voters to parties: Voting advice applications and models of party choice. Acta Politica, 47(4), 400–422.

Walgrave, S., Nuytemans, M., & Pepermans, K. (2009). Voting Aid Applications and the Effect of Statement Selection. West European Politics, 32(6), 1161–1180.

Yle (2019). Welcome to Yle's election compass! Retrieved 11 March 2021 from





Isotalo, V. (2021). Improving candidate-based voting advice application design: The case of Finland. Informaatiotutkimus, 40(3), 85–109.