Cultivating Democracy

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Issues

Powering Voter Engagement with Candidates on the Topics That Matter

In a democracy there is an expectation that voters choose their leaders based on who has the best solutions to the most pressing issues faced by the community. Far too often, however, vague party platforms obscure the core policy questions at play. Cleavages on religion or ethnicity can drive votes, leaving important policy considerations left by the wayside. At the same time, political candidates are often unaware of the topics that matter most to citizens, and are unable to clearly articulate clear positions on the relevant questions of the day in concise, media-friendly ways.

With the Issues DemTool, citizens have an opportunity to send their questions directly to the people who aspire to lead them. They can also expect to receive direct answers in the form of short video responses designed to be easily shared through the web or social media.

Traditionally, debates and town halls provide a forum for connecting political leaders to their constituents. In these settings, politicians are able to highlight differences in political vision while citizens can directly ask questions to candidates and elevate important concerns of the people. The Issues tool takes some of these core concepts and translates them to an online environment. Although the Issues platform functions as a web site, the distributing questions, response videos and subsequent dialogue traverse the digital spaces where people already interact—primarily via social media. 

Why Should I Use Issues?

women raising their hands

Issues is suitable for operation in a range of country contexts where internet penetration—at least among targeted audiences—is fairly high. As most engagement on Issues will come through social media, it can be helpful to look for vibrant political conversations on Facebook or YouTube.

The Issues tool provides a way to bypass existing media intermediaries, permitting citizens and leaders to experience unfiltered engagement and dialogue. Direct interaction without filters can be particularly useful in places where media is cost-prohibitive or controlled by an authoritarian regime that stifles opposition voices. As youth are more likely to be online, and more comfortable with digital formats, Issues can be a good platform for them to engage with the political process in a new way.

Political Party Programs

Issues is most powerful in a context where citizens are uninformed about policy differences among parties or campaign conversations are not focused on the topics voters are most concerned about. By training candidates on media skills needed to present short, to-the-point messages aimed at target audiences, Issues can help prepare candidates for TV appearances, interviews and in-person debates. Questions submitted by the citizenry also help parties better understand the concerns of the voters.

With new and additional opportunities to engage with citizens, less prominent party figures—particularly youth and women—may have a chance to elevate their profile through public communication while representing a wider array of faces for the party. By working with candidates as they draft responses to citizen questions, a program incorporating the Issues DemTool can help parties evolve better defined platforms with more sharply drawn differences with their rivals.

Civil Society Programs

Civic organizations attempting to increase voter information or elevate core messages to political leaders can use Issues as a hook to raise important topics with candidates. In a different context, without the help of Issues, these topics might otherwise be ignored.

Legislative Programs

Parliaments or legislatures can use the Issues DemTool as a system for constituents to ask questions to their MPs while elected officials are able to engage directly with constituents to share their accomplishments. Issues provides MPs with an opportunity to practice their on-camera skills and shape messages to better reach citizens.