Cyberpresse creates political donation map

Political donations mapped by postal code from Cyberpresse

Cyberpresse has outdone itself.

Cedric Sam and Thomas de Lorimier, who brought us that poll-by-poll map of 2008 election results – and ported it into English so the Rest of Canada could enjoy it too – have mashed up a Google map with data from Elections Canada on party and candidate donations. It’s introduced here on Saturday by Martin Croteau.

As you should know, political donations are public information, and Elections Canada provides some raw data (though not all, see Sam’s comment below). Sam and de Lorimier used some Google Refine finessing to create an interactive map of donations, colour-coded by party. Each dot represents a postal code where a registered donor lives. Clicking on one reveals the name of the donor, the date and amount of the donation, and the party or local riding association the money was donated to.

It’s a fun tool if you know your neighbours and want to find out who among them is politically active. You can also search through the data. Or, if you don’t like the way they presented it, you can download the raw refined data yourself and create your own map.

Another example of the power of data journalism.

15 thoughts on “Cyberpresse creates political donation map

  1. Cedric Sam

    Thanks for the props! Actually, EC does not provide any raw data on location, and we had to download it all separately (automated). That and cleaning up was the biggest challenge. The map itself was a walk in the park with Google Fusion Tables!

      1. Cedric Sam

        Indeed. Unfortunately a limitation of the platform (Google Fusion Tables). See the other link I posted lower in the comments for another mashup I did with practically the same data.

        1. Olivier

          Really nice work.

          I’ve taken the liberty to download the data you’ve made available and geocode it for the Montréal region. I’ve used ArcGIS to calculate a density (a function of the $ and the quantity of donors) map of the city for the PLC and BQ.

          shameless self-promotion:

          You can see two nice clusters in Outremont and Westmount.

          Sorry for the grammar, English isn’t my first language.

  2. Shawn

    My reaction to this was strongly negative: I think it’s an invasion of people’s privacy. But then, I didn’t realize this data was public information.

  3. Alex H

    Data journalism to me is lazy journalism, because there is no attempt to do anything other than present data, minus any context or supporting information. It really doesn’t add any more information for me, rather it gives me too much detail to bother. It might have been slightly better to present the data as a “by area” breakdown, with “drill down” information if you want to see individual donations. Like it is, I am forced to use my “approximation eye” to try to figure out any trends or patterns.

    I think of data journalism like this as data porn, useful to a very few who are into that fetish. Too much details means that we examine the crumbs without ever enjoying the cake.

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Data journalism to me is lazy journalism, because there is no attempt to do anything other than present data, minus any context or supporting information.

      Considering the work involved, I wouldn’t call it lazy. Obviously there’s no context or analysis, but I think that’s its strength. There’s no bias, no opinion, no editorial judgment.

      Keep in mind that this isn’t the end of political reporting. It’s a tool. People (including journalists) can use this to find information that interests them, and do their own analysis. By itself it probably doesn’t say much, but it can facilitate more and better journalism on the subject.

      1. Alex H

        For some people who would like to play with the data and try to extract some sort of meaning, the raw data is nice. However, this sort of thing is on par with the federal budget: I can hand you a copy of the full document (and good lucking figuring it out), or you can get a nice summary from various news organizations that will bring up the most salient points.

        Steve: raw data may be nice for some, but for most people who aren’t willing to spend hours playing with it, it is sort of a meaningless flood. Adding context to the data and summarizing it helps to create faster understanding and enjoy. The map as presented is better than nothing, but it is still way too much data for most people to put into any meaningful order even for their own understanding. What appears to be the result here is people are seeing the trees (which of their neighbors donated to who) without seeing the forest (the greater overall donation patterns). As Alexandre mentions, La Presse did a more useful drill down on the data, adding some context and doing the work required to get a result that is perhaps a little more meaningful to people who don’t have hours to manipulate data for fun.

        I am not against “raw data dumps”, I just think that whatever is adds to the discussion may be lost in the peering at specs of dust that it creates.

  4. Fred BelAir

    Speaking of the “free the government data” concept, wouldn’t it be amazing if all government computer data was public. It’s our data, bought and paid for after all. Imagine the information revolution of this data was all made public.

  5. Alexandre

    to Alex H.
    La Presse did the drill down by parties/regions/candidates it its paper edition this morning.


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