Electoral map system to help candidates find their way

4 Feb 2011

The All Island Research Observatory (AIRO) at NUI Maynooth is providing General Election 2011 candidates and political parties with free access to an online socio-economic mapping portal that can revolutionise their approach to policy formation, decision making and campaign planning.

The portal will allow election candidates to quickly analyse data for all 43 constituencies relating to potential voters; population demographics, socio-economic status, deprivation indexes, economic status, housing, transport, social class, marital status, religion, industry, households and education.

The system will also allow political strategists to analyse and compare electoral districts within their constituencies in drawing up manifestos, and provides up-to-date information, such as the fluctuations in Live Register data at social welfare office level, and localised information on unfinished housing estates, planning permissions and housing development. It will allow election candidates to access micro-level data on their constituencies while on the canvass trail for the 166 seats in the Dáil.

NUI Maynooth is contacting all political parties with information on the AIRO system.

AIRO is a project from leading NUI Maynooth research institutes NIRSA (the National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis) and NCG (National Centre for Geocomputation). 

The AIRO electoral system will allow political party strategists to formulate campaign plans based on the most up-to-date statistics and data, to quickly analyse the socio-economic breakdown of the 43 constituencies, and to be able to compare areas within and between constituencies. The system compiles data centrally in a user-friendly format, such as CSO statistics, census outputs and Live Register information.

“The AIRO electoral mapping modules can bring political policy development and election preparation into the 21st century,” the director of NIRSA at NUI Maynooth Prof Rob Kitchin said.

“With the Dáil now dissolved, almost 400 candidates are declared to run for election so far. At the political party level, election strategists may be under time pressure to get their canvassing teams organised and mobilised and the AIRO system will allow them to easily break up their constituency and devise a campaign plan based on up-to-date socio-economic data and demographics.

Formulating strategy during the most turbulent period in Irish political history

“This allows, for the first time, evidence-based decision making when it comes to formulating strategy in what is going to be one of the most important political periods in Irish history, as we seek to return the country to managed development.

“From an immediate canvassing point of view, it may allow candidates and their teams on the canvas trail to focus more on certain messaging based on the most accurate data for that area, whether it is messaging around employment, housing or transport.

“While there are issues which may affect an entire constituency, our system can identify pockets within a constituency where issues such as unfinished housing developments, lack of public transport or a disproportionate increase in the Live Register may be more of an issue,” Kitchin added.

Social media in Irish General Elections 2011

Kitchin went on to say that in recent years we’ve witnessed politicians adopting communication channels such as Twitter and Facebook, and now the AIRO system will allow them to finesse their policy making using rich, public data that is easily accessible.

The AIRO electoral portal is only available to general election candidates, political parties and public sector planners and researchers. The system will allow users to:

  • Quickly analyse and compare the demographics of self-defined neighbourhoods or communities.
  • Map and explore data relating to housing, social deprivation, Live Register, health, the economy, transport, and other key issues.
  • Compare electoral districts within and between constituencies.
  • Browse an inventory of pre-prepared maps and access a series of key statistics and datasets. 

The AIRO system allows non-expert users to quickly and easily create the analysis of data they require at the touch of a button. A point-and-click interface means no mapping expertise is required.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years