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.
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:
- Relevance: Does the political system reflect Canadians, and their concerns and priorities?
- Openness: Can Canadians see what is going on in the political system?
- Participation: Can Canadians participate? And do they?
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.