Who needs critical thinking, eh? Ahead of this Friday’s General Election, here are eight ways the internet can help you make up your mind on who you want to vote for in your constituency.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few weeks, you’ll know that the people of Ireland are to head to the polls to choose the make-up of the next Government on Friday (26 February) after what has been one of the shortest General Election campaigns in Irish history.
Also, if you’ve been watching or listening to any of the TV or radio debates, you’ll know how much of a role social media is playing in this General Election campaign.
But there are still many out there who feel uninformed about many things in this election, such as candidates’ stances on certain issues and even who is running in their constituency.
Well, relax anxious voters, as a number of sites and services have sprung up to not only show you the basic information on this General Election, but to help inform you on the very issues that could help you decide your vote come election day.
Check the Register
So, you want to vote in the General Election? Well, before you start thinking about who you’re going to vote for, it might be a good idea to check that you can actually vote.
Just over 3.2m people in Ireland were registered to vote for the 2011 General Election, which, at 91pc of the population eligible to vote, is a pretty considerable number.
So, before you head to your polling station, make sure you’re on the register by entering your details into Check the Register .
If you’re not, well, then, at this stage, it’s tough luck, as it is now too late to register to vote in this election. Oh well.
Who is my TD?
Let’s look at Who is my TD?, an independently-run site by Colm Doyle and Ruth Ní Eidhin based on open-source software called Pobal designed to collate lists of people online.
The site is as straightforward but beneficial as they come, with the person visiting the site being able to just enter their address and see what their constituency is and who is running in it.
By clicking on each of the candidates, you can access publically available information on them and which party they represent, or don’t.
A quick and easy-to-use tool, to be sure.
This is perhaps the best-known of the entries on this list, having established itself as the clear front-runner in a competitive online arena.
Developed as a collaboration between Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, the Union of Students in Ireland and the Elevator Programme, Smartvote.ie not only gives you the identity of the candidates in your area, but it also has a questionnaire that helps you decide who you would be likely to go for.
For example, the list of questions will ask how strong the conviction is you hold on certain issues like repealing the 8th amendment to the Constitution or rights of asylum seekers and connecting them with parties who have stated their opinion on them.
Who knows, you may have favoured one politician over another, but after doing the questionnaire, find they don’t agree with your beliefs.
Irish Election Stats
If there’s one thing lacking in many political debates and conversations on the street prior to an election, it’s cold, hard facts.
Want to know how many TDs of one particular party are running in a constituency? Or how about you want to know how one particular politician has done in a recent public poll?
Well, Irish Election Stats probably has you covered, with Dublin-based political analyst David Higgins doing a pretty good job of creating a model to crunch all of the numbers and even predict the outcome of the results.
While his website will explain how the model works exactly, following the site’s Twitter account will give you a daily breakdown of his latest findings.
Hex My TD
As someone who would say they’re a lover of all things cartography, the list wouldn’t be complete without a mention for one of the newer additions to the conversation, Hex My TD.
No, this is not a site where curses are put on TDs, but rather a map of hexagons combined into creating a political map of Ireland.
Curated and run by oceanographer and politics enthusiast Gerard McCarthy, the site offers a glimpse of how the current political spectrum lies, but is also being used to create a data visualisation of the most up-to-date polls.
A nice alternative to staring at sheets of numbers, it has to be said.
Insight’s Instant Manifesto Guide
If you’re sick of political speak, then you might want to turn away now, although you probably shouldn’t.
Ahead of the General Election, researchers at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics have taken all nine party manifestos and, using text analysis, created a single graphic for each, based on the most frequently-used words.
You definitely see the party policies coming through quite strongly, with the most-used words bolded in the examples given.
Here’s two for context.
University College Dublin’s Insight4News is perhaps one of the most social-media orientated resources out there for anyone looking to see who’s leading the charge online.
For example, unsurprisingly, Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams leads the Twitter battle, but it is also broken down into which parties are just better overall in engaging with the public.
If you’re a journalist, politician or just generally interested in seeing some clear data presented rather nicely, this site is pretty darn good, it has to be said.
Tinder is so last year. This year is all about TDer, the Tinder-inspired app to help you hook up with the TD of your dreams. It’s basically a ridiculous piece of fun. That’s why it’s last on our list.