When aspiring to be re-elected, a government is often judged on its record: has it fulfilled all the promises it made to get elected the previous time? It is exactly this assessment that we presented to readers with our project on the performance of the CAQ government of François Legault, in Quebec, published one week before the election call.
Each of the 251 promises, collected and monitored by an external organization, is presented there in the form of a quiz, multiple data visualizations and even exploratory cards classified by theme.
In 2018, François Legault, just elected prime minister for the first time, made a final promise : to fulfill all of the promises made by his party during its 4-year term. Since he was as attached to the fulfillment of this final promise as to the 251 others made during the campaign, we submitted his record to a fact check. Our project allowed readers to see how many promises had been achieved and how many had been broken, as a whole, but also by category, in health, environment or education, for example.
A few weeks before the election was called, the government was sure to have one of the best records and to have fulfilled the majority of its promises, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Our project gave voters the facts, not only the political version, in addition to comparing Legault’s record to the previous governments. It also helped set the tone for the upcoming election campaign, by offering a retrospective of the past four years in the political world. He further reiterated the importance for politicians to deliver on their promises, but also to make promises that could be fulfilled in a single term.
Our project begins with an engaging experience, where a quiz submits a selection of promises for readers to evaluate. Often voter bias dictates that governments do not deliver on their promises. They were therefore asked if, in their opinion, the ten selected promises had been fulfilled or broken. It was also a way to spotlight ten events from the past four years that may have gone unnoticed or forgotten because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Different forms of visualization also allow, whether by verdict, by theme or by government, to showcase different aspects of the Legault report throughout the article. It ends with an exploratory section, where Internet users can navigate between the different themes and directly consult those that interest them more specifically.
A color code makes it possible to quickly differentiate the verdicts and the explanations associated with a selection of promises allow people to learn more about their fulfillment (or their failure). All the elements of the project were developed using a variety of technologies, including React.js, Material UI and D3. It is designed to be as easy to use on a computer as on all mobile devices.
Context about the project:
We published our project one week before the start of the election campaign in Quebec. The time was perfect to present to our readers the results of a government that had promised to deliver on all its promises. Our project was an original way to put it to the test of facts, while differentiating us from other media who were also at the stage of evaluating the outgoing government on its record. It is a huge journalistic task to compile and follow the fulfillment of all the promises of a party elected to government. This is why we have chosen to collaborate with the Center for Public Policy Analysis at Université Laval. We were then able to take advantage of the expertise of their political scientists, offering them in return to present their data in a more user-friendly way and to broaden their audience, since our project would reach all of the readership acquired to Radio Canada.
Politicians also scrutinized our work when the project was published, and some even challenged a handful of verdicts or their explanation, which were nevertheless validated by the analysis of our experts. We opted for a combination of participatory, static and interactive visualizations, in order to offer the most complete and enriching experience for readers. A wide range of stories and albums for social networks (particularly Instagram) made our project into a complete offer and reached a wider audience. Overall, it also had a value of civic education, which is more important than ever during an election period to help voters make an informed choice once at the ballot box.
What can other journalists learn from this project?
A government’s record can be both a dreadful and a daunting subject, although it remains a must-have as an election draws near. That’s why we found a dynamic and informative way to present the information, rather than constraining it to continuous text. We offered a wide range of visualizations from the same database, in order to cover the many aspects of the same subject and draw different conclusions. It may also be wise to partner with an external organization, which is already doing rigorous work, in order to find the best tools to present their conclusions, and those that we ourselves have drawn from their work, and to expand the public reach.
This is also why we have split up our project in order to present it on social networks. Each of the posts, from stories to albums for Instagram, featured specific elements, and they generated a large number of reactions, comments and shares.