The Samara Index

What's next for Samara's research?

During our MP Exit Interviews, we asked the MPs what advice they would give to improve politics today. There were a wide variety of replies, but one identified a core challenge: as a country, we know very little about how politics works. With an undefined problem, it’s hard to suggest solutions. 

This is true. If the political process, which determines how billions of public dollars are spent, is obscure, Canadians can rightly wonder if the best decisions are being made in the interests of the country.

What is the Samara Index?

The Samara Index is an interactive open data tool that measures key areas of Canada’s democracy. It will help educate citizens on the health of their democracy, encourage debate and provoke change where evidence suggests it’s most needed. 

The Index, more specifically, measures the relationship between citizens and their political leadership by looking at three areas: 

• How Members of Parliament are representing and engaging with Canadians
• How successfully Political Parties represent and involve citizens 
Citizens’ perceptions of politics, interest in it and their own levels of participation 

In time, and with your interest, it can expand to include a wider set of political actors and indicators that explore provincial and municipal politics. At present, the Samara Index focuses primarily on federal politics, political parties and MPs, as well as citizens’ political involvement and perceptions more generally.

The Index will enable:

Citizens to better understand, evaluate, and engage with the political process

Teachers and students to access an educational tool for classroom lessons on Canada’s political process and civic engagement. 

Journalists to draw on a fact base about Canadians’ beliefs, political activities and the political process that will enrich and improve reporting. 

Researchers & academics to expand on Samara’s analysis and advance research and teaching agendas using a large and unique Canadian dataset. 

Political leaders and policymakers
 to refer to a nonpartisan, reliable source of information about citizens’ (dis)engagement with politics and recommendations for improvement. 

Through all of these stakeholders, above all else, we hope the Index will help all Canadians champion a strong democracy.

Underlying Approach:

The theory underlying the Index was developed in conjunction with a team of academics, adapted from the work of Canada’s Democratic Audit series.

The Index will look at the four areas against the following criteria: 

  • Communication: Do MPs and political parties reach out to Canadians? Are Canadians contacting their political leaders?
  • Participation: Can Canadians participate?  And do they?
  • Evaluation: How do Canadians evaluation MPs and political parties on their core roles? Are Canadians satisfied with democracy? 

How will this Index help? What makes it unique?

Many global indices regularly monitor aspects of democracy, and typically compare dozens of countries. This diversity means that Index indicators used must be measurable across a range of contexts, from Great Britain - with a centuries-old democratic tradition - to South Sudan - one of the newest democracies.  As a result, indicators are often general and fail to address how established democracies can innovate and improve. 

Unlike global indices, the Samara Index allows a much more in-depth evaluation of Canadian democracy over time, and between elections, with indicators specifically chosen and crafted for the purpose. This “made-in-Canada” approach will measure important developments in Canada’s political system that global indices can miss.

How is the Index developed?

Samara is consulting widely to gather input on this project.

We continue to hear from citizens about their concerns and priorities through our national outreach program, Democracy Talks. We are building relationships with those who work in the political realm to collect their input. We also seek out experts, including a team of academics, for their advice and insight.

The underlying measures included in the Samara Index are not permanent. Our vision allows for ongoing improvement and additions to the Index over time as we continue to gather great ideas from Canadians and other initiatives around the world.

As well, we imagine this as an open data project. All of the data we collect will be available to other organizations and all Canadians. 

Where will the data come from?

The Index draws on a variety of information sources, including:  

  • Public opinion data captures citizens’ perceptions of politics, as well as their political knowledge and behaviour (e.g. how they participate);
  • Other objective data Samara collects itself (e.g. coding of Hansard text); and
  • Existing public sources (e.g. Elections Canada’s reports on voter turnout).

Samara uses both citizen perceptions and objective data because we believe how citizens view politics is as equally important to how politics is actually working.

If you have any comments or ideas, please contact us at info[@] 

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