The 2016 elections are perhaps among the most contentious in history, with scandals and jabs coming from both sides of the aisle. In response, a number of new mobile apps have emerged to help voters make sense of the candidates, campaigns, and news stories that will determine the outcome of the 2016 presidential elections, challenging traditional predictive polling measures. A search of the app stores produce a myriad of Clinton, Trump, and election-related apps that have crowded into the market to capitalize on the volatility of this year’s campaigns to fundamentally change the way Americans approach democracy.
From informative apps that provide background on the candidates, to ones providing bipartisan election news, electoral vote count maps, help locate polling places and verify voter registration, and even games that poke fun at the candidates, 2016 is definitely the year of the app when it comes to politics. Voters are increasingly turning to mobile apps to help guide them through the murky waters of our electoral process.
According to Mic, “Leaders of self-described ‘civic tech’ apps claim they will change how Americans come to understand policy and how influencers grasp social sentiment. While these platforms vary in style and depth, each app aims to change how we track public opinion through real-time engagement with millions of phone-addicted voters. App leaders have raised millions of dollars from investors to prove their product is viable.”
These civic tech apps include a number that aim to change American democracy with a swipe or a tap, offering users a path to win the Electoral College, tailored election news, or ways to support a particular candidate. Apps like Countable and icitizen serve to help brands and lawmakers more accurately understand an individual’s political views. They also hope to disrupt polling firms and market research by providing real-time data from a large population.
According to Russ Reeder, head of icitizen, “The whole social sentiment market is a disaster.” He told Mic that polling and market research firms currently are far too partisan and can’t accurately track the swift changes in social sentiment.
“This country is about public opinion,” Reeder said. “But it’s the job of the elected official to understand what the public feels so they can make the right choices. Right now, they don’t have the right tools.”
Enter civic tech.
"I absolutely see a major financial opportunity in 'civic tech,'" said Hunter Scarborough, founder of Voter, the "Tinder for politics" app that asks users to swipe left or right when they are asked a number of political questions. With each swipe, this app tracks the political leanings of the coveted millennial demographic.
And while these civic tech apps do not have the high user return figures that the more game-like apps do, statistics show that nearly half of Countable’s users are still engaged after six months, and icitizen sees “tens of thousands” of users on any given day. Meanwhile, Voter provides data from thousands of millennials that cannot be easily garnered by other polls.
Despite the fact that civic tech apps are still returning small numbers in terms of the 100 million iPhones in use every day in the U.S., with national surveys of voters reliant on a thousand or so respondents, "civic tech" creators believe their method will prove valuably disruptive.
"Politics and government is one of the last bastions to be unaffected in a big way by technology," Voter's Scarborough said. "And I don't think that's going to be much longer."
Here is a sampling of some of the best election apps currently available:
2016 Election App, created by Nathan Ashworth. Some call this app “The best 2016 election app!” It allows users to follow the 2016 Presidential campaign with latest news on debates and candidates, using push notifications and details for debates and news in an objective, nonpartisan format.
US Elections 2016 - Trump v Hillary - News & Polls. Created by Newsfusion, Ltd., this app allows voters to follow election campaigns with a non-biased newsfeed, including debates, press releases, media appearances, polls, opinions, and analysis.
VOTER. This app uses sets of big questions (gauging where you stand on hot-button issues like abortion, the death penalty, legalizing marijuana, etc.) and a Tinder-style swipe interface to match users with particular parties and candidates. The app also has a useful compendium of candidate’s biographical information, quotes, and campaign contributors.
PolitiFact’s Settle It! This app from Times Publishing Company Web Site allows voters to fact check the candidates quickly and easily and test their own knowledge of the Truth-O-Meter. This has been one of the most contentious years of campaigning in terms of misinformation being bandied about by candidates. This app helps voters determine what is true and what is not.
2016 Map. Digesting an endless stream of polling numbers is dry and tricky work, and understanding what they mean for the larger election is even more difficult. The 2016 Map app synthesizes daily polling data into a live electoral map that shows users where each state stands, and how far the candidates are in their campaigns to gather 270 electoral college votes. It also allows users to compare today’s numbers with previous numbers or historical election maps.