This weekend CBC launched its Vote Compass for the 2011 Federal Election, and as of this morning they tout that more than 300,000 people have taken the test. The intention of the online tool is to engage people in the political process, letting them see which political party most reflects their views. As the site explains, it “provides users with a sense of how their opinions square with the platforms of the political parties running in the 2011 Canadian federal election. Based on their responses to a series of statements, Vote Compass calculates a user’s position in the political landscape and shows them the respective positions of the various parties running in the election.”

However, the results users are getting from the tool are creating quite a stir online, as many find the answers don’t jive with their political leanings. babble, rabble’s discussion board, has taken the tool to task, as posters raise questions about the methodology used to calculate users’ political leanings, as “Michelle” comments:

“Actually, the problem is that the questions are very poorly designed.  Some of them break the most basic rules of questionnaire-making, and put this survey into the realm of push-polling. I’ve been fuming about this questionnaire since completing it last night.  I actually got NDP as my result, but the Green Party was almost even, and a bunch of my NDP-supporting Facebook friends were pegged as “Green Party”.

They have compound questions in the survey — that is, questions with more than one question in them, but that you have to answer with only one answer.

Example: “The government should fund daycare instead of giving money directly to parents.”  That’s actually two statements, not one, and should be separate questions: “The government should fund daycare” and “The government should not give money directly to parents.”  Because if you believe the government should fund daycare AND give money directly to parents, there is no way to answer this question. And if you believe the government should not fund daycare AND they should not give money directly to parents, there is also no way to answer it.

And that makes it a trick question.  Because anyone who votes NDP will answer this question “Strongly agree” or “Somewhat agree” since we all agree that the Conservatives giving a hundred bucks a month to parents was no fit replacement for universal daycare.  But they have placed the NDP into the “neither agree nor disagree” choice because the NDP supports both universal daycare AND giving money directly to parents. If forced to make a choice, you can bet that the NDP would support universal daycare over $100 per month payments to parents, which they roundly criticized at the time. This question makes it seem like the NDP has no position on daycare at all.

It’s a scam question. Only the Green Party position (fund daycare INSTEAD of payments to parents) or the Conservative Party position (Give payments directly to parents instead of funding daycare) can be reflected in the answer to the question. The likert scale they use doesn’t adequately represent the position of the NDP or Bloc on this question.”

Poster “Vansterdam Kid” questions the purpose of the survey altogether:

“…why do they even ask the party and leadership questions, when the point of the test is to determine, based on your answers to the ‘issues’ questions, who you should vote for? As a joke, I re-calibrated my answers and pretended to be in favour of Quebec getting more power, essentially making it look like I was a separatist, and it still told me I should vote Green.

Out of curiosity I clicked on the party positioning links to see where they assigned each party and I have a few qualms about it.

With regards to the Conservatives they were positioned as somewhat agreeing with increasing Canada’s military presence in the Arctic, and only wanting to spend somewhat more on the Military. Both of these positions seem somewhat untrue as they strongly agree with both.

As for their position on government spending, apparently they neither agree nor disagree with the assertion that “when there is an economic problem more government spending usually makes it worse.” That’s news to me! They only somewhat agree with the assertion that, “The federal budget deficit should be reduced even if it leads to less public services.” Again an interesting though debatable claim. As for their position on whether or not “It should be easier to qualify for Employment Insurance” they neither agree nor disagree. I’d say they at least somewhat disagree!”

What do you think? Is Vote Compass miscalibrated? Does it matter?

Join the discussion on babble, or comment below. We want to know what you think!