The Member of Parliament Website Analysis project focused on the content of MP’s websites. It did not include any pages hosted by parl.gc.ca or candidate websites for election or re-election. Importantly the content of MPs’ websites are determined by the MP, and, as long as the site meets guidelines laid out in the Members’ Allowances and Services Manual, the costs are covered by public funds through Parliament. Websites excluded from the analysis included four empty ridings (by-elections were pending at the time of data collection) and the four party leaders. This left 300 MP websites to study.
We developed a 14-point checklist for MP websites that included:
- the information a constituent may need to contact an MP;
- the work an MP could be reporting to constituents;
- ways MPs can facilitate Canadians’ engagement in the political process.
Each website was then scored out of 14 points. For a copy of the Codebook please email info[@]samaracanada.com.
This analysis did not take into account how visually appealing websites were, how easy they were to navigate, or how recently information had been updated; we simply looked for evidence that the element was present or not present. This reduced room for subjectivity on the part of the data collectors.
Data collection occurred in August and September 2013 by nine Samara volunteers. Volunteers were trained and guided by Samara staff at Samara’s offices. French websites were coded in French where MPs’ language preference was French. MP websites were located either through a search engine or through information on www.parl.gc.ca.
To ensure accuracy, Samara staff double-checked a randomized selection of 32 MPs websites (11% of the sample). All percentages shared on the infographic were rounded to the nearest whole number. To receive a point for social media, the MP had to have at least two of: Facebook, Twitter, photo sharing (e.g. Flickr), or video sharing (e.g. Youtube).
As with any study, there are limitations to the design and data collected. While websites are a key communication tool for MPs, their websites do not necessarily capture all their online activity. For example, though we looked for links to social media accounts on MP websites, we did not evaluate how MPs were using these other platforms. We also recognize that not all MP’s websites serve as a reliable measure of their work in Ottawa or the constituency. For example, some MPs have very simple websites, but are continually applauded for their hard work and tendency to return individual phone calls. In other words, they have chosen not to report on their work via their website.
It’s ultimately up to a MP’s constituents to judge whether an MP is missing an opportunity to communicate and engage citizens. The good news is that websites updates and improvements are something that can be accomplished fairly quickly. Check out your MP's website here.
If you like this project and want more, check out Mark Blevis’ MP Digital Makeover series, which gives greater attention to the look and feel of a MP’s website and use of their own voice.
Several of Samara’s volunteers helped make this project possible. Volunteer website coders included Katrina Afonso, Connor Bays, Eranda Gjomema, Alex Lougheed, Andrew Lynes, Phillipe Murphy-Rheaume, Richard Pietro, Margaret Radon, Sarah Somerton. Lisa Blackwell provided background research assistance. Kelta Coomber provided feedback on the codebook. Lara Gertner assisted with data analysis. Aadita Chaudhury and Shifa Tauqir consulted on translation. Christophe Cinqmars-Viau, Alana Del Greco, Danielle Dowdy, Laura Legault and Geoff Sharpe shared ideas for tips for MP websites.
Design: Emma Jenkin
Analysis: Laura Anthony and Lara Gertner
Writing: Kendall Anderson and Jane Hilderman