Q. How are you protecting my privacy?
A. A great deal of effort has gone in to planning the privacy protections around this study so you can be confident your details are secure. The personal contact and identifying details are all held on one server, and the survey data held on a separate server. The data is encrypted when being back up to a second network server and a third external server. All three servers under our management are in separate locations in Sydney and Townsville, controlled by Australian entities, and deploying the highest security protocols. Once registration is closed, the online database of participant information will be deleted and only offline copies will be stored for an extra layer of protection.
The personal details of respondents will never be released as part of any results nor with any part of the dataset. Individual responses will be paraphrased so individual respondents cannot be identified.
Q. Will the dataset be sold or used like Cambridge Analytica used Facebook data?
A. No, the dataset will never be sold.
Additionally, we are not collecting any data off Facebook. Any comment or message that you send us on Facebook stays on Facebook.
It is difficult to comment on the Cambridge Analytica case without knowing exactly what they were doing, although certainly they obtained data they should not have had. However, the data gathered from this study will definitely never be used to assist campaigns – political or otherwise – in direct message targeting or to manipulate the respondents of the study, which seems to be the bulk of the public’s concern around that data breach.
Raphaella is a member of the International Association of Political Consultants, the European chapter of which put out a statement in condemnation of the actions of Campaign Consultants SCL/Cambridge Analytica and reaffirmed that all their members must adhere to their Code of Conduct. While this code has not yet been adopted by the international body, Raphaella does uphold these principles on the very rare occasions when she does consult.
Q. How do I participate in the Voter Choice Project?
A. To participate in the project, simply sign up using the participation form. You will need an email address that we can use to contact you for at least the next year or so, so it is best to use a personal one.
Q. Why do you need my street address and date of birth?
A. It is not required information, but we prefer it. In order to check your electorate on the Australian Electoral Roll, you need to tell us your middle name if you have one, and your street address.
When we can’t find someone on the federal roll, we check the state rolls, and most of the state systems require date of birth to look someone up. There are a a number of people that are in one system but not the other, or may be at a different address in the two systems. Your age is also required for data analysis purposes and establishing that we have a balanced sample.
Q. I don’t want to put my personal details through an online form. Can I still participate?
Of course. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, age, postcode and electorate and we’ll register you manually. If you want us to look up your electorate for you, you’ll need to provide your full name and street address.
There are also short surveys from time to time on the surveys page that you can participate in anonymously, without joining the panel at all.
Q. Can multiple people in the same household participate?
A. Yes. You will need separate email addresses however, and if you have those email addresses coming into the same inbox be careful to click the link in the one sent to you. If you have any troubles just contact us by emailing email@example.com.
Q. What kind of people do you want participating in the Voter Choice Project?
A. All kinds of voters: the more varied and diverse the better for getting some really good results. If you…
- are a loyal party supporter or actively work on party campaigns
- vote for the same party all the time just because you do or because your parents did
- study all your voting options each election before coming to a considered decision
- are a typical swinging voter
- vote informal most of the time (leave the paper blank, write or draw something)
- don’t feel qualified or informed enough to vote
- get anxious in trying to decide who to vote for because you’re too busy with life to properly think about it
- consider voting a joke or waste of time
- give your number one to the funniest name or donkey vote
- don’t care about elections or who wins and just vote for whoever pops in to your head
- would rather not vote ever
- consider voting to be our most important civic duty
…then you should take part in the Voter Choice Project. If you don’t fit in to that list then you should really take part so we can learn from you about how you think about voting. The only requirement is that you are enrolled to vote.
Q. Can I complete the questionnaires on a mobile phone or tablet?
A. Yes you can. Each survey has been tested to ensure it can be completed on mobile devices. We have also tested it on buses and trains to make sure it is commute friendly. If you have to stop at any point, just close the browser, and then click the link in your email again and you should return to where you were up to.
However, it is generally faster to complete on a computer, particularly if you like to make lengthy comments.
Q. I don’t have regular internet access. How do I participate in the Voter Choice Project?
A. Unfortunately the Voter Choice Project is only available online. However, we encourage those who wish to participate to use their local libraries or seek the assistance of family or friends with internet access so they can take part. The invitations will be sent at very regular times so you will know when to go to complete your next survey. You can also complete the surveys on a mobile phone or tablet.
Q. How much time will participation in the Voter Choice Project take?
A. The catch-up questionnaire for new participants which gets a little longer each month, it takes about 30 minutes at the moment. From November until the election is called, the core survey has been shortened to make it around 7-10 minutes. The survey when the election is called will be a little longer, about 20 minutes, and then the remaining surveys will be about 10 minutes again. There are optional questions you can do for each survey which take a little longer. Combined, the total time it will take to participate in the Voter Choice Project for those who started with us in June or July is about 4 hours up to a maximum 5 hours if the election is not held until May 2019.
Note, there are many open text boxes in the surveys so you can write whatever you like. If you decide to write a lengthy comment on a particular issue or event, your comments are sincerely appreciated and they will be read and analysed, but that may take a little longer.
Q. What kind of things will I be asked?
A. The surveys will ask you what kind of conversations you’ve had about politics, what news you’ve watched, read or shared on social media, whether you’ve had any direct contact with politicians or parties, and who you are intending to vote for. You will be asked how much you care about politics, whether you care who wins the election, and if you would vote if you didn’t have to. We’ll also ask you about your family, friends, and the people you work with, and what influence they have on the way you think about politics. There will be some general demographic and personality questions as well. In some of the surveys, we’ll ask some relevant questions about issues that may have come up recently.
You won’t be asked hard questions about politics or the electoral process, and you won’t be forced to answer anything you don’t want to. The only compulsory questions in the entire study are about who you are intending to vote for.
Q. What if I want to drop out of the study?
A. There is nothing to stop any participant dropping out at any point of the study. Naturally, it would be great if everyone who participates completes each survey and stays with it to the end, but no one will be forced to answer any question they don’t want to. You can let us know you’d like to drop out or if you are having any issues by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q. What if I miss one of the surveys?
A. If you miss a survey, don’t panic. Just re-join us at the next one.
Q. I can’t log in, what do I do?
A. If you get your email for the next survey and find that your link doesn’t give you access to the system, go to the surveys page, and there is a link there to the monthly survey which you can use – you just need to enter your email. If there is a problem with a survey you have already started, email email@example.com and we’ll get it sorted as soon as we can. If you are on Facebook or Twitter, you can also message us @voterchoiceau for assistance. Glitches do happen unfortunately, but we’ll do our best to minimise them and sort them out quickly.
Q. Can I stop and come back to finish the survey later?
A. Yes, if you are using the link in your email. Once you start your questionnaire, you can stop at anytime by simply closing the browser window, and re-enter by simply clicking the link in your email again. You have one week from the time you start to complete the survey. It is better to try and do it in one go if you can but life happens! Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any trouble getting back in to your survey.
Q. What does a ‘panel’ mean?
A. A panel is type of survey method where a group of people that are surveyed or interviewed more than once. A multi-wave panel is a type of study that reinterviews the same group of people many times to get their opinions at multiple points in time. The main reason to do a panel is to study change – in the Voter Choice Project panel studies we are studying change in vote decision.
Q. Where will the results be published?
A. We try and publish highlights of the results reasonably quickly on the blog. A report on the results will be published on this site when analysis is complete. Participants in the study will be emailed an executive summary of the results.
There may be some news coverage if there are findings of general interest. If appropriate, submissions will be made to the relevant government or parliamentary committees, such as the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) which holds hearings into the events of each federal election.
Raphaella Kathryn Crosby will publish some results as part of her PhD thesis, as well as a number of smaller papers, and a book is also possible.
Q. How can I get a copy of the data?
A. There is currently no plan to make the dataset public: the codebooks and questionnaires may be published on this site and in academic databases at an appropriate time after the completion of the study. The raw data set will absolutely never be released or sold in order to protect voters’ privacy.
Q. What will the results of the study be used for?
A. The results of the study will be used in two spheres: academically, to increase knowledge of voter behaviour and hopefully encourage more Australian researchers to work in this much neglected area of study; and in the professional sphere, to inform political operatives and others who work on issue campaigns to help them improve the way they run their campaigns. It is expected media organisations will also be able to improve their coverage of elections by understanding what information voters find useful. If there are future studies the results will be re-used to better understand future elections and see how things are changing, and data may be re-analysed to look at particular phenomena or voter groups after the completion of the main project.
To be clear, this study is not testing what propaganda or ads are the most effective – it is looking at communication channels, social context, and complex patterns of influence. So the results cannot be used to manipulate, dupe, or con people; they can only be used to have smarter, more strategic conversations with voters that give voters the information they want in the format, time and place that works for the benefit of voters.
We are also doing some theoretical work around developing better polling models, some elements of which are tested in the surveys. Any commercial application of this work, however, will not involve participant data. No participant data will ever be sold.
Q. Who else is working on the Voter Choice Project?
A. There are a number of technical people who have been contracted to assist with things like building the website and maintaining the servers. Raphaella is currently the only researcher working full time on the Project, but she is assisted by industry professionals and senior academics offering their advice and guidance. If any other researchers join the project on a more substantive basis their information will be added to this website.
Other academics may work with the resulting data. Some select researchers will be invited to have advance releases of data where they are working on aspects of voter behaviour that Raphaella will not be analysing, as their work will help her work, but the data they will be given will only be anonymised and coded datasets relevant to their specific focus.
If you are interested in doing research (including as part of a Masters Research or PhD) in voter behaviour or a related subject as part of the Voter Choice Project please contact Raphaella to discuss.
Q. Are you independent/non-partisan?
The Voter Choice Project is not affiliated with any politician or political party.
Raphaella has not been a member of the Australian Democrats since 2011, and has not been actively involved in partisan politics in any way since 2014.
But wait… isn’t Raphaella Lynton Crosby’s daughter?
No, sorry. Raphaella’s Dad’s name is John.