About On The Fence

On the Fence is a fun web tool that educates and guides you to find a best match from New Zealand’s political parties.


So Basically...

Research tells us that across Western Society, and particularly in New Zealand, there are an increasing number of young people who are making ill-informed and often no decision when it comes to voting. Many become peer pressured to vote, while others choose to abstain. The sheep metaphor represents the group mentality and lack of individual responsibility that is especially prevalent in the 18-25 year old target audience – the farm narrative and quirky characters provide a light-hearted look at a serious topic. To inexperienced voters, politics is perceived as boring, inaccessible and difficult to understand. On the Fence counteracts this by creatively guiding and educating young people into making informed voting choices. It doesn’t tell you how to vote or who to vote for, but it puts ‘trainer wheels’ on the future for many young people who believe that politics has no shaping influence in their lives.

On the Fence was originally launched as a 300-level student project by students from Massey University College of Creative Arts in 2011. In the 6 days before election day, over 30,000 Kiwi's showed their support by playing, sharing and sending us some amazingly helpful feedbaaack! Working with industry partners Springload, Massey University has invested in further developing On the Fence within the Design & Democracy Project, which seeks to enhance participation and conversation on social issues through design.

How does it work?

The game is simple and easy to pick up; answer each of 17 key policy areas by indicating how much you agree with each of the statements provided. Users need to feed their sheep a total of 5 policy areas in order to progress.

The tool works an abstract slider. Rather than using a binary ‘yes’ or ‘no’ system, the ability to indicate how much they agree (or disagree) with each statement enables the user to position themselves relative to each policy statement. This recognizes that potentially users, and in fact, you, could be shades of either.

When the user is done answering, the tool will calculate the user data compared to the panel to produce the top 3 compatible political parties. These parties that are revealed are only recommendations! The tool will also generate top matches for each policy area answered.

Alongside this, the tool also generates a projected avatar of a user’s political stance. This avatar is intended as a fun way of allowing young people to share and compare their political views. The ‘props’ depicted on it are relative to the policy areas that the user has polarised themselves towards and add a bit of nonsense fun to a topic that is otherwise, well, pretty boring.

Where is the Data from?

How we selected the parties:

Our criteria for inclusion in the 2014 On the Fence is:

Polling and Facebook likes measured at time when invitation letters were sent. Authorisation letters were sent to each of the parties asking for consent to participate. All parties must be registered.


A panel of experts with a wide range of knowledge or expertise in the political arena give an informed opinion, which is necessary to determine the numeric values that will help the application calculate the user averages against. Our process of determining value for each of the policy areas to compare user data to starts with the back end database we have built. Panel members position each of the parties between the two statements for each policy area, which is given a numeric value. The average of these values are what the user‘s response is compared to.

Policies themselves are highly subject to change, both up to and following the election and it seems unnecessary to be constantly updating, modifying or reworking the entire filtering system based on changes to one or two statements.

This system places control in the user’s hands. By creating a questionnaire for both the user and the panel, the traditional forced-choice user centric approach to polling is reversed and the focus is put on comparing what the user thinks they believe, against what the diverse panel has determined. The goal is to find common ground between the parties and the users values without reference to policies. The panel acts as a mediator.


Our Left/Right statements have been inspired by the Left vs Right concept map, written and art-directed by David McCandless in 2011. The slider system allows for the user to agree with both statements, the degree to which one is favoured more over the other becomes the users’ final position in relation to that policy area.

Want to know more?

Visit designdemocracy.ac.nz
Contact: Karl Kane k.kane@massey.ac.nz
Contact: Kieran Stowers k.stowers@massey.ac.nz

The team

Karl Kane k.kane@massey.ac.nz
Kieran Stowers k.stowers@massey.ac.nz
Josh Barr josh@springload.co.nz

Chapeau to:

Tim Parkin, Dr Claire Robinson, Bron Thompson, Gareth Price, Chris Nicholls, Ben Wright, Dave Cartwright, Kim Partridge, Jo Bailey, Anna Brown, Jennah Rasmussen, Meg Howie

Send us your feedbaaack

Twitter: @nzonthefence
Facebook: Karl Kane nzonthefence
Email: feedbaaack@onthefence.co.nz

Brought to you by:

On the Fence is an offering of Design & Democracy Project, a research unit established within Massey University College of Creative Arts and made in collaboration with Springload.

Unless you volunteer personally identifiable information, the information you provide to On the Fence remains entirely anonymous.

While On the Fence provides analyses of aggregate data collected via the application, it will under no circumstances disclose to any third party identifiable individual-level ​user data nor will ​user data be shared with any of the political parties or candidates.

For more information please contact us at the addresses above.