The advent of the internet, with its super-abundance of easily accessible political information, has left voters more confused, more disengaged from politics, and less trustful of elected politicians and democratic systems of government.
The challenge is to swim against this tide – leveraging the enormous capacities of the internet for political communication and engagement in order to provide information and insight that makes voters more empowered and thus enhances democracy.
Dr Matt Wall has created, disseminated, and analysed ‘Voter Advice’ websites in a variety of elections across the world. These sites ask voters policy questions and use political science data to show them how their answers match up with parties and candidates.
Dr Wall has collaborated on vote advice sites with academics and companies across the UK and the EU, most notably Dr André Krouwel, Dr Jonathan Wheatley, Dr Ioannis Andreadis, and Kieskompas and has received funding from both the CHERISH Digital Economy Centre and Swansea University’s SURGE fund.
He also researches how data created by online political gambling markets can help us to make sense of campaigns – acting as a ‘filter’ allowing us to focus on the relevance of stories as opposed to their ideological appeal or shock value. Dr Wall has received funding from the AHRC and CHERISH-DE for this work, resulting in a major publication (with Dr Stephen Lindsay and Dr Rory Costello).
Collectively, Dr Wall has worked on vote advice sites that have been used by over four million citizens worldwide. A range of research papers have shown that individuals who use such sites are more likely to vote and be confident to engage in political discussion and activity.
In addition, Dr Wall has created educational sessions at several local secondary schools, and hosted exhibitions in the Oriel Science Gallery, the National Waterfront Museum, and the Welsh Parliament based on vote advice sites.
Dr Wall’s next project has just received funding from the Leverhulme Trust, and he will be working with Dr Wheately to create a vote advice site for the 2021 Welsh Parliament election.
Dr Wall has presented his work on gambling and campaign coverage on BBC Wales, and BBC Radio. The latest iteration is a podcast series with Swansea University colleagues Dr Richard Thomas and Dr Allaina Kilby: Horse Race Politics, which seeks to popularise this approach further by applying it in real-time to the 2020 US Presidential Election campaign.