Dr. Kim Foale

Researcher and developer. Thoughts on senses, data, access, and equality.

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May 15, 2014

Don't trust "I Side With"

I've been pointed by a few people now towards I Side With as a policy guide. This site is extremely poorly sourced, and uses a highly flawed questionnare design. I strongly reccomend against using it.

There are two things it gets wrong. Firstly, the sources often do not back up what has been said by parties, usually relying on dubious press releases or quotes from candidates rather than policy documents. The site lists me as a 94% match with Labour, but this seems to be almost entirely based on garbage quotes. In the most extreme example, I am told that I side with Labour on Welfare benefits ("Should there be more or less restrictions on current welfare benefits?"), and given this link to James Purnell's site as a source.

It seems however that the linked page has absoltely nothing to do with restrictions on it, and in fact, it seems James Purnell himself has not been an MP since 2009 (and is now a BBC director), since quitting to protest Gordon Brown's leadership. So far so misleading.

Right, maybe it's a one off. Let's look at the economy.

Should the UK raise or lower the tax rate for corporations?

I am highly in favour of this. There is no source given. A quick google suggests that in fact, Labour are not for raising corporation tax, they're just not in favour of lowering it any more. Hmm. Which brings us to the other main problem with this site. A 5-point Likert scale of "least to most" suggests that if I say it is "most" important that corporation tax is raised, I expect to be matched highly with a party with a strong line on increasing corporation tax, not given a high weighting with a wishy-washy position.

This is a misapplication of this kind of survey design: the semantic scale given measured is incorrectly affecting my result weighting, not the degree of the given party's commitment to a policy.

These aren't exactly isolated. I'm also against zero hours contracts, apparently Labour is too. The actual quote given is:

The huge spike in the use of zero hours contracts has brought increased reports of abuses and bad practice. There should be zero tolerance of this.

So, they're not actually against zero hours contract, just "abuse", whatever that entails. Again, this is a high part of my weighting. I'm also against fracking:

Labour has always said that fracking should only go ahead if it is shown to be safe and environmentally sound.

So again... hardly a strong position.

This isn't meant to be an attack on Labour: I'm sure the matches for the other parties are just as poor, I was just suprised to be matched so highly with a party that, in practice, I didn't think supported any of these issues. Seems they don't, and that I Side With is about as accurate as a "which cat are you?" Buzzfeed post. On top of this, I'm almost positive from looking at the javascript source that the "we are now matching your answers" screen is artifically added, a shady tactic that airline and train companies use to make you feel like their website is doing something complicated.

Alternatives? Vote for policies seems much better, being based on actual policy documents. However, as with all politics at the moment, it seems manifestos have very little bearing on what happens, so take it all with a pinch of salt. Just make sure you vote for someone!

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