This election has seen wider efforts at using the internet to provide a broader range of information to the electorate beyond the narrow confines of what is served up by the mainstream media. Two in particular are You Decide 2007, which is endeavouring to provide ‘citizen-journalist’ style coverage at the electorate level, and How Should I Vote, which tries to provide assistance to people on how they should vote by matching their answers to a series of questions with responses provided by candidates.
I’ve noted before during this election how rare it has been for Liberal Party candidates to turn up at the many different types of public forums that have been held about the place. A piece in Crikey suggests that this apparent strategy of non-engagement also extends to the internet as well. Marcus Westbury from How Should I Vote reports that “despite repeated requests, only one Liberal and one National candidate” from the 150 electorates have supplied their answers or policy positions on the questions that are put to voters to help them determine which candidate best matches their views.
Similarly, Jason Wilson from You Decide says that “it’s been almost impossible to get Liberals on the phone, to keep their appointments with the site team or to talk to citizen journalists. The early interviews have dried up – since early October the site has been stonewalled by local candidates and the party machine.”
How Should I Vote has been developed by the GetUp! group, who could reasonably be described as not supportive of the government. But the survey process on How Should I Vote seems fairly impartial to me, and the fact that the site has been developed by GetUp! hardly means that every single person who uses the site is going to be beyond persuasion about voting for the Coalition. Responding to a questionnaire with your party’s policy is hardly a massively time-consuming task, nor does it risk a “gaffe” or some other controversy that’s “off-message”, so I really don’t understand what the Coalition thinks it has to lose by refusing to engage on this most basic of levels. And surely there’s always the chance of some gain – even if its only small, in an election where you’re struggling to retain support, one would think you’d take every available avenue.
These two websites are interesting experiments. I might write some more detailed views on them after the election, but they’re certainly worth while trials. I am fairly wary of the term ‘citizen journalist’, but the general notion of encouraging wider input at a local level from ‘outsiders’ is definitely worth trying.
My main gripe with the How Should I Vote site is that, just like the mainstream media, it IGNORES THE SENATE! I know I have a personal stake in this, but I just don’t get why this happens so continually. It might have required a bit more thought for the questionnaire, but surely it could have been done for the 24 parties/groups that are contesting the Senate in Queensland.