Postmedia Network Inc. and Chicago company GeoPollster have teamed up to offer Canadians a new way to have their say and support their political party of choice. The result of this collaboration is GeoPollster Canada: Part real-world election game, part mobile polling experiment, that launches this week, and uses the location-based site Foursquare – where people can ‘check-in’ to places on their mobile devices.
First launched on National Post’s website and then on canada.com’s Decision Canada election site, the GeoPollster site today rolls out to all of Postmedia Network’s daily newspaper websites: Times Colonist (Victoria), The Vancouver Sun, The Province (Vancouver), the Calgary Herald, the Edmonton Journal, the Leader-Post (Regina), The Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), The Windsor Star, the Ottawa Citizen and The Gazette (Montreal).
“Most traditional polls are conducted by cold-calling random Canadians on landline telephones and can miss a growing demographic that relies more on mobile devices and social media to connect with each other and the world,” said Jonathan Harris, Regional Vice President, Postmedia Digital. “It got us thinking: What would polling data look like if anyone with a smartphone could answer ‘who will you be voting for?’ anytime and anywhere they wanted?”
Participating in GeoPollster is easy and fun to do, readers can sign in to the service with their Foursquare account and select which political party they currently support: The Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats, Green or Bloc Québecois (this information is completely private and will never be displayed). Then, every time they check into a Foursquare venue anywhere in Canada, GeoPollster will count their check-in as a “vote” for that party. Votes are tallied in real-time to determine polling data for each venue and expressed on our live updating map.
Check-in votes help favourite political parties “seize control” of venues such as coffee shops and gyms, cities, provinces and perhaps even the country as a whole. As more check-in data comes in, a unique representation of Canada’s political landscape will begin to take shape on the explorable GeoPollster map.
Throughout the election campaign, our newsrooms will keep a close eye on GeoPollster check-ins and post updates as the dataset evolves. “We’re not sure what we’ll discover, but we’re excited to find out,” said Mr. Harris.
The Foursquare application also allows election polling to be taken one step further by providing a snapshot of voters’ daily lives and party allegiances. “One thing that makes this interesting, and one of my favourite parts of GeoPollster, is that we can actually track political sentiment by different categories,” said Adam Kraft, co-founder of GeoPollster. “In the United States, pollsters tell us Republicans go to church more than the Democrats. But how do we really know that? With Foursquare, we can verify that they went to church. But in addition, we also know where, when, and how often.”
While the GeoPollster Canada experiment is more of a game than a scientifically accurate survey, it is also a mobile polling experiment. Voter sentiment data is real and informative. It will provide readers with a fun, casual way to support their party of choice, but also to learn more about the value of using location-based services to collect a wide range of mobile polling data.