Défense publique - Laura Uyttendaele

14 septembre 2023




Le Recteur de l'Université catholique de Louvain fait savoir que

Laura Uyttendaele

soutiendra publiquement sa dissertation pour l'obtention du grade de Doctorat en sciences politiques et sociales

“ Unpacking the Impact of Voting Advice Applications on Pre-Voters’ Political Attitudes : An Experimental Field Study on the Effects of the Test électoral éducatif in Walloon Schools in 2020 ”

Lien Teams



The Test électoral éducatif is a Voting Advice Application (VAA) that provides citizens with personalized information about their ideological profile by comparing their positions on a selection of political issues with those of political parties. In practice, users fill in an online survey according to their opinions on a set of issues. By comparing their position with those of political parties, the applications generate voting advice. Although one of the purposes of VAAs is to engage young individuals and those who are uninterested in politics, there is a lack of field research examining the effects of VAAs on young people, particularly research that addresses political inequalities. Our research focuses on pre-voters, i.e., individuals aged between 16 and 18, as we acknowledge that this is a key time for the development of political attitudes. Therefore, we form three research questions. The first one constitutes the lead research question of the present study: To what extent does a VAA have an impact on pre-voters’ political efficacy and trust? (RQ1) We also wonder whether VAA effects last, and whether the app succeeds in addressing the inequalities in political resources based on individuals’ socio-economic status (SES). Hence, we ask the following two sub-questions: To what extent does a VAA have a lasting impact on pre-voters’ political efficacy and trust? (RQ2), and to what extent is there a difference in VAA effect based on SES? (RQ3).

To isolate the effect of VAA usage from other variables in a natural classroom setting, we set up an original and replicable mixed experimental design within and between-subjects. The experiment takes place in natural classroom or computer room settings with fifth- and sixth-year secondary pupils in schools across Wallonia (Belgium). Data collection was carried out in three waves, from January 20 to April 3, 2020. The three-wave design allows controlling for pre- and post-exposure measures of the independent and dependent variables. Our experimental study makes it possible to disentangle three kinds of VAA effects: the statement effect – the effect resulting from simple exposure to VAA statements, the advice effect – the effect resulting from receiving voting advice related to the VAA use, and the match effect – the effect resulting from matching the advice with the user’s prior party preferences (incongruent, congruent, or activating advice). We hypothesize that exposure to VAA statements has a positive impact on pre-voters’ internal and external political efficacy (IPE and EPE) and political trust (Hypotheses 1 to 3), and that VAA advice exposure has a positive impact on pre-voters’ political efficacy and trust (Hypotheses 4 to 6). Regarding match effect, we hypothesize that incongruent advice exposure has a negative impact on pre-voters’ political attitudes, while we expect that congruent and activating advice exposure have a positive impact on these attitudes (Hypotheses 7 to 9).

The findings reveal the complexity of VAA effects. First, it is found that exposure to VAA statements positively influences pre-voters’ IPE. Second, advice exposure is found to build up pre-voters’ political trust. Third, the findings show that pre-voters exposed to VAA advice tend to feel less IPE immediately after intervention. At the end of the study, they restore their initial level of IPE. Fourth, we do not find that incongruent advice exposure mitigates participants’ political efficacy and trust, contrary to what was hypothesized. Fifth, the congruent advice effect is found to be the largest effect among all, with a positive impact on EPE and political trust. And the last innovative result that emerges from our study is that activating advice exposure has a positive impact on political trust.


Membres du jury

Prof. Benoît Rihoux (UCLouvain), co-promoteur
Prof. Stefaan Walgrave (UAntwerpen), co-promoteur
Prof. Hugues Draelants (UCLouvain), président du jury
Prof. Valérie-Anne Mahéo (ULaval), comité d’accompagnement
Prof. Pierre Baudewyns (UCLouvain), comité d’accompagnement, secrétaire du jury
Prof. Naomi Kamoen (Tilburg University), évaluatrice externe
Prof. Patrick van Erkel (University of Amsterdam), évaluateur externe