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.
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 five empty ridings (by-elections were pending at the time of data collection) and the four party leaders. This left 299 MP websites to study.
We developed a 16-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 scored out of 16 points. For a copy of the Codebook please email info[@]samaracanada.com.
This analysis did not take into account the website’s visual appearance or how easy they were to navigate; we simply looked for evidence that the data point was present or not present. This reduced room for subjectivity on the part of the data collectors.
Data collection occurred in May and July 2014 and was performed by ten 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 neutrality in web searches, coders were instructed to use private browser settings (for example, Chrome’s “incognito” mode).
To ensure accuracy, Samara staff double-checked a randomized selection of 30 MPs websites (10% 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, websites do not necessarily capture all of their online activity. For example, though we looked for links to social media accounts on MP websites, we did not evaluate how often or how well MPs were using these other platforms.
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 and at a low cost.
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: Amy Smith, Annie Richardson, Emily Caputo, Glenn Brown, James Rimmer, Jessica Chambers, Kathleen McLeod, Katrina Afonso, Mathew Iantorno and Samantha Peck.
We also graciously thank Alexandra DiGioseffo who interned at Samara this past summer and was instrumental in facilitating this year’s edition of the project.