How to innovate for an event that takes place every four years? How can we distinguish ourselves from competition and from ourselves? The key was again data and how to make data work for us to be one step ahead in innovation and impact. We must not get tied to a “classic” schedule of elections. Knowing how to detect specific audience needs allowed us to focus on new developments, some of them arising from the circumstances.
Electoral maps, which are historically the most news viewed in LA NACION website, were reconsidered to offer more services to user. It was added a software that allowed the comparison of changes in the performance of the two main political forces in the country with respect to the last presidential elections. It was necessary to recategorize the political parties that changed their orientation over the years in order to make accurate and representative calculations. To illustrate information, we used “scales” that showed in each case the changes in the flow of votes with the movements of needles in each place of the country. An agile, attractive and simple way to see the “ups” and “downs” of the main forces in Argentina that were fighting for power on the election night.
1) Electoral “scales” and a comprehensive reading of the results
[ORIGINAL LINK]: How the vote changed compared to 2015 presidential election
[ORIGINAL LINK]: Mapping results for each jurisdiction
Electoral “scales” were added to the maps to show new variables in real time from our databases. How much did the flow of votes of the government increase or decrease after four years in office? How much did the flow of votes of Kirchnerismo increase or decrease as this party wanted to return to power? These answers were also fundamental to make a comprehensive reading of the results and we decided to show them the same night of the elections to take a step forward in the view offer.
With data collected from all the electoral districts from the past presidential elections and live access to data from the election count during the night of the 2019 elections, we made a live monitoring of the performance of the two political main forces in the country. The “scales” proved to be the most useful graphic resource to understand the “ups” or “downs” in each case. To add complexity, data were divided by province, which allowed immediate political readings.
In order to offer an even more complete analysis, visualization was organized as follows: a first number on the total of each force reflected in percentage points in order to make a live comparison with the vote counting still in progress. Then, we divided the districts based on which each political force had won in 2015 and on which had lost. Data were again the means for generating quality content.
The structure of the new Congress was not a minor event and we intended to show in detail how the new balance of powers in the House of Representatives and the Senate would look like. In order to do this, each legislator was assigned a political orientation based on a specific color, which allowed us to illustrate the seats in real time and anticipate at the same time of the elections who would obtain a majority, if any political force had ensured its own quorum and various new scenarios appearing after the results. We could distinguish ourselves from the competition: we identified the new representatives of the Congress with first and last name.
2) How to show the new congress in real time
[ORIGINAL LINK]: Who won and who lost power in each province
Looking at Congress is key when the results begin to draw up the new balance of power on election night itself. With our database of legislators who held their seats, gathered by political orientation, the configuration of seats was completed with new legislators entering both houses, also categorized by political strength. Who enters each house? Who does not continue? Who will have a majority in Congress? Does the quorum itself reach the majority strength? All these questions were clearly answered in the visualization.
To add more detail to our database of candidates who were becoming legislators as they entered Congress, we had all their first and last names written down so that each seat, in addition to representing a political color, reflected the exact person who would hold it. The system for assigning seats in Argentina is somewhat complex and is called the D’ Hont method. This calculation was considered in our applications and it was not necessary to wait for the information on who was entering and who was not from the government agencies in charge of giving official information.
The election project begins on the night of the list structure. In fact, one of our first visualizations is usually the complete list of each party in each electoral district, the list with more views is the list of representatives since there are many seats and they are elected in all the provinces of the country. That complete base with first and last names, which takes us approximately 15 days to complete from the closing of the lists, is the list that is being refined on election night. In fact, we are “coloring” on that base those persons who enter Congress and we leave without color those who did not enter. This is what we call working in layers, considering previous developments, enhancing them, transforming them with a progressive updating with a same basis.
Planning is fundamental to carry out projects of this importance, but it is also significant to always keep the journalist thermometer intact to detect new needs unexpectedly appearing. And there was something unforeseen in the 2019 elections in Argentina: in the PASO (primary) elections, the result that was not the expected. The new structure left as main question if the government of Mauricio Macri, with a much poorer performance than estimated, would have the chance to reach a second round and thus remain in power. No one could answer that question without a custom-made calculator. So, we put data available for that software and created content according to the need of that moment. The result? A number of visits that exceeded expectations, repercussions in the media and even in the offices of the Government House, where ministers and advisors tested the application, according to sources working there.
Speculation on how the votes of the candidates could be redistributed and the votes of those who had been left out of the game to anticipate whether there could be ballottage was a topic in all the conversations, in the opinion columns and in the analyses of television and radio journalists. Precisely, the application allowed to simulate the redistribution of votes from the primary elections according to the forecasts of each user and thus obtain the possible electoral scenarios.
3) An application escalating the offices in the government house
[ORIGINAL LINK]: CALCULATOR: Will there be a second round election?
When we decided to create an election calculator, we assumed that we would make a considerable impact since we were helping to answer a question that stood out on the conversations at all levels. But the repercussions exceeded all our expectations. After the results of August 2019 primary elections where the government party suffered a defeat of unexpected magnitude, was there a chance that the government of Mauricio Macri would be able to agree to a second round? According to analysts, a second round of elections guaranteed him a victory to retain power. But if this scenario was not possible and everything was defined in the first round, Kirchnerismo would return to govern Argentina. Is there a possibility of a ballottage with the percentages of the first election?
The work done with the primary election results databases partly contained the answer. The calculation that everyone was speculatively doing consisted of predicting how voters would behave in the new electoral test, that is, how those votes of the candidates who had not passed the primary elections would be redistributed at this situation. Our databases were the basis for an application that would allow us to work with the percentages of the primary elections and also that the user could operate them in such a way as to test different scenarios for the expected answer: whether there was a chance of ballottage or not.
We were able to perceive the need of the audiences to direct our efforts towards a “useful” end, to put our databases and programming at the service of a question that had no chance of being answered without such a development. To make the calculation, it was important to consider all the options of results in the application according to the Argentine electoral law:
If the candidate who won obtains more than 45% of the affirmative votes in the first round, he is proclaimed president.
If the candidate who won does not receive 45% of the affirmative votes, but does receive more than 40% and has a difference of more than 10 points with the second most voted candidate, he is elected in the first round.
There will be a second round between the two most voted formulas if the winner does not exceed 40%.
If the candidate with the highest number of votes obtains between 40 and 45%, but the advantage over the second one is 10 points or less.
All these premises were part of the tool programming. The user only had to create his/her forecast, “play” with the options, propose different alternatives and, in each case, the application displayed at the forefront whether there was ballottage or not. It is clear that the final answer was going to be given with the real results, but while waiting for the elections, this method proved to be an essential guide. In fact, even with the most optimistic number combinations for the government, a second round was not possible.
As soon as we published, an impact was created: television channels were analyzing the numbers by reproducing our calculator in their TV plasmas, officers who informed us from Casa Rosada- used the tool in their offices and, of course, our readers who chose and praised content.
4) Mapping electoral results from each table
[ORIGINAL LINK]: The results of each one of the approximately 100,000 voting booths
Additionally, on election day, we also analyzed and presented the results of each one of the approximately 100,000 voting booths throughout the country. In Argentina, the designated authority of each one of the 100,000 voting tables prepares a form containing the results. The form is then scanned and sent to the counting centers that load the forms by hand for the vote counting. We first associated the data from the polling places with the one from the tables and geolocalized each one. Then, we scraped the data from the forms and uploaded them for the users to check and view the results of their table.
5) Young Audiences
The opinion of young audiences and their topics of interest are usually more oriented to social media consumption. Hence, we decided to build specific applications and data driven stories for them:
[ORIGINAL LINK]: a) Abortion, climate change and others topics you care about
Using a Google Form and Instagram Questions, we asked young audiences what questions they would like us to ask the presidential candidates. We received thousands of questions and analyzed which were the most frequent. We selected 10 of them and contacted the presidential candidates. We asked all the 9 candidates to answer those questions in a selfie format video to mantain the young audience esthetic. Only one refused. Each video was edited and published on our social media accounts and in a special platform with a compelling design using emojis and music.
[ORIGINAL LINK]: b) Presidential candidates on Facebook: strategies and secrets of their social media performance
In April, long before the official formulas of the presidential pre-candidates were announced, we decided to monitor the pre-election campaign strategies on Facebook. Why this social network? Because despite its decline, today it is still the most important social network in terms of number of users and its regular use from the millennial generation to the baby boomers.
Using Crowdtangle, we evaluated over a period of two years how the number of followers of each candidate evolved, who wrote the biggest amount of publications, how people reacted to the posts (“I love it”, “it makes me angry” and more), what was the rhetoric used according to the content, what were the specific publications that got the record number of likes and comments. We measured who had the most interactions per publication, a metric known as gross engagement that is calculated based on the total sum of likes, comments, reactions and shared by dividing the number of posts of each . We also investigated the behind the scences of the social media management of politicians accounts and the strategies of each candidate.
c) Google search interests for the two most popular candidates: Alberto Fernández and Mauricio Macri: We developed an application which allows you to see the google searches per province over a period of time.
d) DEBATE GAME: We chose the most controversial phrases that each candidate said on the debate and created an application which allows the user to decide whether they agree or not with each. It also allows the user to see how much people chose the same answer and provides a cumulative score showing with who does the user relate to.