Pioneering student project encourages voters to become ‘more sure’ about their choices ahead of the EU referendum
Published on: 25 May 2016
Student Nick Platt has invented leaveorstay, a digital platform to provide key information on leaving or staying in the EU
According to current statistics, voters are confused, with just 21 per cent of voters feeling ‘informed’ or ‘well informed’ about the referendum which is just weeks away. Among 18-24 year olds feel that figure decreases to 10 per cent who feel ‘well informed’ about the debate. However, voting intention remains high, suggesting people are planning to make a decision about what their country does with little available information.
A group of students based at the University of Exeter decided to do something to help their fellow undecided voters. Exeter student Nick Platt and a team of fellow computer science students invented leaveorstay, a digital platform to provide everyone with key, unbiased information to help decide which box to tick on the 23 June. Leave or Stay takes over 1000 hours worth of independent research on issues surrounding the EU, summarises and displays it in digestible five minute topic sections, to which voters react based on their thoughts and feelings. The website aims to inform 100,000 voters ahead of the referendum, a target that is “entirely achievable” according to Nick.
The platform has been built to offer a balanced and evidenced view on which voters can consider how they feel. Nick said: “Leaveorstay is not an echo chamber of a user’s existing thoughts; it’s designed to be a fair and honest assessment of the current state of affairs encompassing all elements, the so called good, bad and ugly. We view it like making sure you have a balanced diet, we wish we could live on junk food but that is bad for you, the same way that being trapped by information that only supports what you think is bad for you.”
Nick and the team have been supported by the University of Exeter, particularly by the Think:Try:Do: Student Startup Support program centred at the Innovation Centre, which has been able award a grant of £2,000 to the project. The University also made vital connections for the fledging team including introductions to former Exeter student Matthew Morley, Founder and Director of TickBox, a voter advice platform that has recently passed the two millionth user mark in 18 months and Professor Susan Banducci, Professor of Politics at the University. The combination of expert support with the grant funding have assisted Nick in creating a site that allows voters to get a clear and honest understanding about what they do and don’t like about the EU and the pros and cons of staying.
Nick, who says he is “nerdy, but not too nerdy”, was a computer enthusiast, fixing computers and helping people get the most out of technology when the politics bug hit. He started the project in February 2016. Nick is joined in the project by fellow first year computer science students Gareth Morgan, James Bache and Mark Berrow, aged between 18-19, who have to balance the project alongside coursework and exams.
Mark said: “I would never have classed myself as political. leaveorstay was a site essentially built for me. Without this site, I might not vote. I wouldn’t know which way to vote.”
The full website goes live on 23 May. If you would like to interview Nick Platt or any of his colleagues, please contact Matthew Morley: firstname.lastname@example.org.