Federal Election 2011: Visualizing the Platforms

With all of Canada’s major political parties releasing platforms in anticipation of the upcoming federal election, there can be a lot to read through and process, to the point where most people probably don’t even read their preferred party’s platform all the way through, let alone all of them (I know I usually don’t). With that in mind, this post isn’t so much a skeptical look at the platforms as it is trying to find an interesting and easy-to-digest way of presenting the information contained within them. So, without further comment, I present my next post in an ongoing series looking at the platforms of Canada’s political parties for the 2011 federal election.

(Click on the images to embiggen.)

Conservative Party of Canada

Liberal Party of Canada

Bloc Québécois

New Democratic Party of Canada

Green Party of Canada

These graphics were generated using a free online tool called Wordle. I grabbed PDFs of each of the party’s official platforms from their websites, converted them to text files, and then used that text to generate the images using Wordle’s proprietary algorithms, which essentially just puts the words together in an aesthetically pleasing way, weighting the size of the words based on their frequency in the source text.

It should also be mentioned that it was discussed leaving out some of the more common platform words, like “Canada/Canadian”, “government”, and the party names. Ultimately, I decided to leave these in, as I found it was interesting to see the emphasis that each party placed on these words, as well as the name of their own (and other) party and politicians.

We’re still three weeks away from the election; keep on the lookout for more in the near future.

8 Responses to “Federal Election 2011: Visualizing the Platforms”

  1. Steve Thoms says:

    This was a neat idea! I can’t help but notice how prominently “Stephen” stands out in the CPC cloud. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

  2. Victor says:

    Also curious is the way “Stephen” and “Harper” stand out in the Bloc Québécois cloud.

  3. Alex says:

    It’s not just the Block – “Harper” is fairly prominent in the Liberal cloud, too. This seems to suggest that the Bloc and the Liberals are busy slagging harper, while the NDP and the Green Party are focusing on their issues. Of course, the conservative cloud does also feature the ‘word’ “Ignatieff-Led”, so it’s not one sided.

    As for the prominence of Harpers name in the conservative cloud … also notable is the complete absence of the word “Conservative”. Every other party has their name prominently featured. This suggests that the Conservatives have replaced all references to their party with references to Harper. Seems a little strange … maybe I’ll actually read their platform and try to figure out what’s going on :)

  4. Richard says:

    I’m really surprised by how unusual the NDP’s block of text is… not going on about regionalism, or power, or personalities…

    The Liberal one looks just as bad as the Conservative… maybe even a bit worse.

    Good thing I don’t make my decisions based on fancy grap… ooo… shiny…


  1. [...] you could take a visual “word cloud” tour of the platforms to see what words are mentioned the most in each. That’s an extraordinarily quick way to tour [...]

  2. [...] policy in this year’s federal election is a series of tag clouds produced by the CBC and SkepticNorth. The Canadian government’s nascent commitment to Open Data is sure to open up more exciting [...]

  3. [...] I don’t see any science in this one or in the others, for that matter. You can find the rest of the visualizations here. [...]

  • Mitchell Gerskup

    Mitchell Gerskup recently graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in Economics and Philosophy. An avid atheist and skeptic, he has served as the President of the University of Toronto Secular Alliance, helping to promote science, reason and critical thinking around Toronto. He also volunteers with the Centre for Inquiry’s Ontario branch, and currently sits on the CFI’s Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism. Mitchell is also an accomplished competitive debater, having debated all across Canada. In addition to issues of economics and philosophy, Mitchell is interested in the fields of science and technology.