Check out our tips for a great riding association website
Riding associations, sometimes known as Electoral District Associations (EDAs), are the local chapters of political parties. At election-time riding associations generally oversee the nomination of local candidates and help to conduct the groundwork for campaigns. Between elections they fundraise, keep local members engaged and provide a community presence for the national party.
For Canadians who do not have personal connections with current party members, volunteering with a riding association is an accessible first step into political involvement. In the age of Google, an informative website is a simple and practical way to facilitate that step.
But how easy is it to find a riding association online and does the site provide useful information for people looking to get involved?
Between August and September 2013, Samara visited riding associations' websites to see how many elements on a 15-point checklist could be located (see full methodology here). These elements—represented in the infographic above—reflect how easily ordinary Canadians can find the information they need to get involved in politics locally.
Samara researchers searched for 1307 sites in total, 308 for each major national party and 75 for the Bloc Québécois. The NDP and Green Party were the only parties to have websites for every riding.
Overall, no websites could be found for 22% of riding associations.
Of those sites found, riding associations tend to be quite good at providing information about the national party, but often lack locally-relevant information. Only 4% of the websites found listed details of their meetings and less than half provided the name of the riding association’s president. Only 5 sites (less than 1%) provided information on becoming a candidate for election.
This is significant given that recruiting candidates and overseeing the nominations process is one of the most important roles fulfilled by riding associations.
On average, the websites found included 7 out of the 15 checklist items searched. Only 4 websites checked off 12 or more items.
The majority of riding association websites provide contact email addresses (80%) and newsletter sign-ups (75%), but very few connect to social media and even less explain how prospective members can get involved in the real world. Only:
- 4% provide meeting details
- 21% provide information about upcoming events
- 8% link to Twitter, 13% to Facebook and 2% to Youtube
While most websites link to a party’s platform (78%) and information about the party’s leader (74%), they are less transparent about who is involved at the local level:
- 48% provide the name of the local chapter’s president
- 17% include the association's executive’s names
- 21% share names of past candidates for Member of Parliament
The one element that almost every single website included?
- How to donate. A full 96% of riding association websites had a link for site visitors to donate to the riding or the party.
Some parties appear to provide website templates for their riding associations while others do not. This might help to account for the difference in the number of websites found across parties.
- The NDP and Green Party use the same template across the vast majority of their sites. They are also the only two parties to have a site for every riding.
- Samara found 292 Liberal riding associations websites, some of which used templates.
- The Conservative Party does not appear to have a template for their websites, which may account for why they only have 110 sites out of a possible 308. Still, a few enterprising Conservative riding associations did put together very complete sites.
Call to Action
If Canadians want to get involved in politics, riding associations are a great place to start. Samara has provided a simple list of 15 best practices that riding associations can use to make their websites more accessible and inviting to new members.
Here’s how you can help political parties take greater advantage of the opportunities online media provide to increase citizens’ engagement with politics.
NB: This infographic represents a snapshot in time (August–September 2013).