Have you taken the presidential compatibility test?
SNARK WITH HEART - Cate de Leon (The Philippine Star) - April 1, 2016 - 10:00am

Filipinos love drama. And in our social media-saturated world, headlines have to be click-bait. We think politicians, or at least their campaign teams, play into that, too. It is very easy to get swept up in all the noise, only to realize that as a voter, you don’t really have much real information after all is said and done. We wanted to contribute to getting past the propaganda and get down to the plain simple facts.”

This is what Ethel Katrina Francisco and Ish Gagno, founders of PiPOLL, have to say about how politics is usually discussed on the Internet and in mainstream media. Thus, they came up with an online survey that asks people where they stand on various socio-political issues — from the Freedom of Information Bill, the dispute over the West Philippine Sea, to same-sex marriage. At the end of the survey, you’ll be shown percentages of compatibility with each presidential candidate, a breakdown of where each of them stands on the issues you just tackled, along with credible links for references.

The basic framework of the app was something Francisco used to do for herself. Using an Excel sheet, she meticulously tallied facts back when she was deciding whom to vote for in 2010. Fast-forward to the 2016 elections, and she found herself aching to do the same for others by creating a voter education website. She started by crowdsourcing on Facebook for salient issues to gather the candidates’ various positions on them. Gagno joined in and came up with the idea of giving the app a compatibility test format, to make it more user-friendly and familiar. The app had a soft launch to friends last March 19, but immediately found a much wider audience.

The original target was a pre-Holy Week release, but Francisco and Gagno didn’t realize it would also be just right before the second presidential debates, which happened last March 20. “That was providential. The timing was a big part of how the app got immediate attention,” they tell us. “We were caught off-guard by how much attention it got, and we realized we had to make sure our setup could handle the traffic. There’s also much more responsibility now to ensure that our reference links are fair and accurate.”

Voting wisely in a circus

On the level of reason, we know that we’re supposed to make educated choices when it comes to voting. But at the same time, it’s a real challenge keeping up with all the information we’re bombarded with, and sifting through all the emotionally-fueled stands and publicly constructed images on social media. PiPOLL is a bit unnerving in that it distills all the noise and forces you to look at the facts — a kind of vision that is quite rare in the world’s most emotional country. For example, while my most likely bet did come out as my top result, I also found out that he was against the reduction of our ridiculous income tax.

The attention PiPOLL attracted got immediate responses from the campaign team of Sec. Mar Roxas, the office of VP Binay, and also a Grace Poe supporter. They each sent in clarifications of their stands, backed up by sources. Francisco and Gagno consider this to be a good thing. “We have updated the app to take those into account, and all changes are posted in the updates panel of our home page.”

Reactions from the voting public have also been interesting, with some test takers matching with candidates they disliked — as a result, they were suddenly forced to take a second look at their decision-making. There were also those who got the candidate they were going to vote for all along. “But the best reaction of all, of course, is when we look a the stats and see that the quiz takers have been going through and reading the reference links that we’ve attached to each question and answer. It warms the heart every time.”

In an arena of personality and patronage politics, the PiPOLL team aims to encourage informed voting, and for people to be more invested in their responsibility to scrutinize and choose their future leaders.

“We expect our future leaders to make tough decisions for us. We should hold ourselves to the same high standards, too, for our nation’s sake. We think if we challenge ourselves to stop being part of a corrupt cycle, better days for this country will come.”

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Find out who your president is at http://pipoll-alpha.appspot.com. Tweet the author @catedeleon.

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