The Riding Association Website Analysis project focused on the content of riding associations’ websites for the five political parties represented in the House of Commons.
Samara researchers searched for 1307 sites in total, 308 for each national party and 75 for the Bloc Québécois. Websites were located using a combination of internet search engines, links available on national party websites and Elections Canada’s database. Riding association webpages hosted by the national party website were evaluated as a part of the project if no separate website could be found. Facebook pages or Twitter accounts did not qualify as a website.
Out of 1307 possible websites, 1019 websites were found (22% were missing). Each website was scored out of 15 points.
We developed a 15 point checklist for riding association websites that included:
• Background information about the riding association and the national party
• Options to contact or keep in touch with the riding association
• Opportunities to get involved with the association
• Information about how to become a candidate.
To receive a point for social media, the website had to have a link to at least one riding association account on: Facebook, Twitter, photo sharing (e.g. Flickr), or video sharing (e.g. Youtube). Since many websites also relied on links to materials elsewhere on the internet, if the link was direct (i.e. took the visitor directly to the appropriate content on another site), it was coded as present. 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 11 Samara volunteers. Volunteers were trained and guided by Samara staff. Quebec riding websites were coded in French by bilingual coders.
Though we worked under the assumption that parties aim to have a riding association in all 308 ridings (or 75 in Quebec for the Bloc Québécois), we recognize that in practice some riding associations may not be registered with Elections Canada or may have been de-registered.
All percentages shared on the infographic were rounded to the nearest whole number.
As with any study, there are limitations to the design and data collected. Given the size of this project, there was no double-coding or randomized checks, which may have reduced errors during data collection.
While websites are a key communication tool, riding associations’ websites do not necessarily capture all of an association’s online activity. For example, though we looked for links to social media accounts on associations’ websites, we did not evaluate how associations were using these other platforms.
It is ultimately up to local party members to judge whether riding associations are missing an opportunity to communicate and engage not only other party members, but potential members and the riding’s communities more broadly. The good news is that websites updates and improvements are something that can be accomplished fairly quickly.
Several of Samara’s volunteers helped make this project possible. Volunteer website coders included: Lisa Blackwell, Sophie Borwein, Kyna Boyce, Emily Caputo, Alana Del Greco, Danielle Dowdy, Justin Jalea, Golbon Moltaji, Erica Rayment, and Bob Sutton.
Design: Emma Jenkin
Analysis: Jane Hilderman
Writing: Kendall Anderson, Laura Anthony and Leora Smith