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PoliticsAugust 14, 2017

Introducing Policy NZ: an incredible new tool to help you decide how to vote in Election 2017


Coverage of politics generally, and this election particularly, is assailed for focusing too much on personality, and not enough on policy. In an attempt to redress that, we’re excited to unveil a major new project to help you get to grips with the rival parties’ policies and so decide how to cast your vote. Here the Spinoff’s Toby Manhire introduces Policy. And below, its creators explain what it’s all about. 

Personality is central to politics. That much is a truism. And it’s not just inevitable but necessary that voters get a chance to examine the people seeking the highest seats of power. We want to get a sense of them, to weigh up trustworthiness and character, to understand better how they might behave under pressure, how they interact with others and what they look for in a biscuit.

But sometimes it gets a bit much. While the ability to communicate a party’s ideas and plans are critical to the modern politician, we don’t always get enough of the ideas and plans themselves. In the last fortnight, for example, a couple of high-profile leader resignations have sucked most of the oxygen out of the campaign preamble, leaving some to say – and here I’m paraphrasing – What ho, Spinoff / other friendly media outlet! How about giving us more about the policies the parties are actually putting forward.

So here it is. The Spinoff is thrilled to bits to lift the curtain today on what we think is a very important and beautiful addition to media coverage of the election. Conceived and assembled by Asher Emanuel, Ollie Neas, Racheal Reeves and their exceptional team of developers and researchers, Policy is, we think, a seriously big deal. Collecting the policy positions of the main parties and presenting them in a clear, accessible and digestible fashion, the tool allows readers to flick through policy areas, compare the parties’ positions and drill down for more detail.

The Policy team have read pretty much every inch of published policy, summarised their contents, and ordered them in such a way as to be easily compared. Crucially, they’ve strived at every turn for impartiality – this is entirely an exercise in communication and comparison, rather than persuasion.

As you flick through the policy areas, you can favourite the policies that ring your bell, then view your favourites collected together. While this may well help you weigh up whom to vote for, Policy is not trying to be a Buzzfeed quiz. If you end up with almost all your favourites attached to the same party, then, yes, probably that’s the party you should vote for. But maybe there’s one policy area that you care about especially. Maybe you already have a party or two in mind but want to square them off. Maybe you’re just policy-curious, having already made your decision based on eg biscuits.

Have a play around: with luck you’ll find it not just edifying but fun. And, if you think it’ll help others make better-informed choices – please share it.

Click here to get into it, or read on for co-creators Asher and Ollie explanation of the thinking behind Policy, how it works, and where the information comes from.

Why does Policy exist?

We made Policy because we think it’s important for New Zealanders to have easy access to information about where the political parties stand on the key issues. Voting is a big deal but it can be surprisingly hard to make an informed choice, even if you really want to.

Where did you get the policies?

On the internet! All the policies we’ve included are based on material published on the parties’ official websites or in press releases published through our content partner, Scoop. Sometimes a government website is cited where useful, and news websites when absolutely necessary.

Are all policies included?

There’s only room for five policies on each issue but some parties have a whole lot more. Our aim is to present the most important policies from each party on the key issues.

This means we include policies that the party talks about often and which are presented prominently on the party’s website. Sometimes we include policies where it provides a useful comparison to those included from other parties.

Are the policies up to date?

Policy is updated daily. You can expect a delay of no more than a day between new policy announcements and their publication on Policy.

Why are the policies worded differently to those on the parties’ websites?

We paraphrase policies to make them easier to understand and compare.

The parties sometimes explain their policies in complicated ways using technical words or jargon. We try to get to the heart of what the party is promising to explain it simply and clearly.

Different parties can also talk about similar policies in different ways. This makes it hard to see where the real differences actually are. We paraphrase similar policies in similar ways to make this easier.

If you want to see a policy in its original form, take a look at the citations we present with every policy on the desktop version of the site.

Where are the other parties?

Only parties with a seat in the current parliament, or polling over one per cent as at 1 August in the Radio New Zealand “Poll of Polls” aggregation, have been included.

The Electoral Commission keeps a list of all registered parties, as does Wikipedia.

Where are the other topics?

For now we’ve focused on the issues that are being talked about the most ahead of the election. Our aim is to include other topics — like energy and constitutional issues — in the future.

Does Policy have an agenda?

Policy is not affiliated with any political party and is proudly non-partisan. We strive to treat all parties fairly and their policies accurately.

Are you telling me how to vote?

Your vote is yours, use it how you like. Policy exists to make it easier to understand the policies before you vote, but there’s a lot more to voting than this. You could vote for someone because you trust them, because your mum knows them, or because their name is first on the ballot.

But if you do use Policy  to help make your decision on whom to vote for, there’s some things you should keep in mind.

Some parties have more policies than others on any given issue. That might be because they don’t care about it that much or might be because they have one great policy which they think will solve the whole issue. Simple arithmetic — which is how Policy generates your personalised graph — won’t address these factors.

Likewise, it won’t take account of how much you care about different issues. Maybe you think climate change is far more important than housing. But if you favourite two housing policies from the Lime Party and one climate policy from the Banana Party, the graph will show a greater proportion of Lime Party policies favourited.

Who made this?

Policy was made by a team of researchers, editors, developers and a designer, who all want to help make election information more accessible. Policy is published by The Spinoff, which likes to try new things.

Policy wouldn’t be here without the very generous support of our lead sponsor, Chapman Tripp, and our supporters, the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, Grant Thornton, Muffin Break, iwantmyname and Scoop.

Go have a play with Policy now

Keep going!