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Rate the Bundestag candidates as they debate

Debat-o-meter allows viewers to evaluate politicians live as they watch the debate

Freiburg, Aug 28, 2017

Rate the Bundestag candidates as they debate


Campaigning in Germany's parliamentary elections is moving into the final stage. On Wednesday, 30 August 2017, the broadcaster Sat 1 will feature a debate between leading candidates from smaller parties about how they would like to govern Germany in the future. The event is being called "The Debate before the Debate" and is the first of three major televised discussions in which rival candidates from the most important political parties can directly present themselves to the voters. On 3 September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Social Democrat challenger Martin Schulz will face each other in the "TV Duel." Then on 21 September, representatives of all the parties that have a chance of getting into the Bundestag will face each other in the "Final Round" to be televised by the broadcasters ARD and ZDF. Unlike debates in the past, viewers can now do more than just passively follow the discussions. You can even join in this time and give your opinion by using the University of Freiburg's debat-o-meter. It allows viewers to say what they think of the politicians and what they say, when they are saying it – live via the Internet using a smartphone, tablet, or PC.

A team of political and computer scientists from the University of Freiburg has developed the debat-o-meter. With it, participants can use the keys "double-plus," "plus," "minus," and "double minus" to say what they think of what the candidates are saying at any time during the discussion. The University of Freiburg team collects the evaluation data coming in from all over Germany and can -- to the second -- determine how the debates are being received. In the end, the researchers know what the public agreed with and what they rejected, and which arguments convinced voters and which ones flopped.

Because the data are gathered online, an analysis of the results will be available shortly after each debate. It shows which positions the researchers have identified as being decisive. Surveys carried out before and after the debate are also used to ascertain if viewer attitudes or which party they intended to vote for changed after watching the discussion. The questionnaires also make apparent which candidates were able to win voter support and which ones were not. Political scientist Prof. Dr. Uwe Wagschal says, "All in all, by using the debat-o-meter we are able to see to the second which arguments voters find convincing and which positions fail to convince. It also tells us which candidates gained or lost support during the debate."

After taking part in the study, participants receive an individualized assessment of their clicks. Compared to the "wahl-o-mat" -- which provides information on voter positions based on individual party programs – the debat-o-meter shows how close a voter's position is to a candidate's on specific issues. If so desired, participants can choose to receive a detailed, overall evaluation of the resutls in the mail. People who would like to join in only need a smart phone, a tablet or a PC with internet access. After logging in, participants will be given a short introduction and the pre-debate survey. After that, it's on to evaluating the debate. Once the show is over, the post-debate survey is administered before the participant is given an individualized assessment of their results. Participation is anonymous and anyone who is interested may take part. Using the debat-o-meter requires no special software, just an internet browser. The debat-o-meter is switched on about an hour before the start of each debate at

Video: For more information (in German) on how the debat-o-meter works see

Registration and information

Prof. Dr. Uwe Wagschal
Department of Political Science
University of Freiburg