Policy, an online political policy exploration tool, was created because we believe it is essential for voters to be able to easily access information about where political parties stand on key issues. Voting is a big deal, and there’s no good reason to make it difficult. We created Policy to make voting easier.
A negative narrative has emerged about our civic culture and institutions: Democracy is under threat. Facts are more slippery than ever. The mainstream media is under assault from sources both political and economic.
The Washington Post, per its motto, says “Democracy dies in darkness.” But it also may die in dullness. The sheer volume of political information available in an ever crowded media environment can be difficult for voters to make sense of — and difficult for journalists to report on accurately.
Political parties don’t make it easy either. They release policy information in spreadsheets, press releases, speeches, even tweets — and they interweave hard policy commitments with puff, rhetoric, and spin.
For voters, it can be impossible to know exactly what the offer is.
Policy was launched in New Zealand by The Spinoff for the 2017 general election. We’re glad to report that one in 20 New Zealand voters (more than 140,000 people) visited Policy in the six weeks ahead of the election and spent eight minutes with us per session on average. Together, they racked up more than 200,000 sessions and 1.4 million pages of policies.
We spent two years fine-tuning our methodology and the Policy tool. Our editorial method paraphrases policies to make them easier to understand and compare, and our online tool harnesses intuitive design to help voters navigate the issues.
Policy is not affiliated with any political party and is proudly non-partisan. We have multiple editors refine every single policy to reduce the potential for bias, and we strive to treat all parties fairly and their policies accurately.
Drawing on publicly available information about the key election policies of political parties, we research and synthesise policies and present them in a consistent and accessible way. By wording similar policies in similar ways, we help voters see apples for apples to get to the heart of what the party is promising.
Readers can choose to hide party labels so they can browse free from pre-existing biases, and they can favourite certain policies to see a breakdown of how their preferences align with the parties.
But stats are only one marker of success. Writing for the New Zealand Herald, political scientist Bryce Edwards described Policy as “the standout success of the 2017 election.” Party leaders endorsed Policy on Twitter, and journalists from a range of publications used Policy to support their reporting.
On a more anecdotal level, we heard about people spending hours and hours putting together a list of policies they cared about. Some told us that, thanks to Policy, they felt ready to vote for the first time ever.
The Policy team is now helping media organisations around the world use our methodology and platform to engage their audiences. We support media partners’ staff to use our tried-and-tested research and editorial methodologies, and offer a Policy discovery site tailored to suit partners’ brand, visual identity, and electoral environment. We also help our partners find a revenue model that ensures Policy pays for itself, using our proven expertise in securing private and public funding sources.
Reporting on political policy is hard: It can be dense and time consuming, and traditional reporting doesn’t drive engagement. Policy uses a consistent editorial method and presents content through a beautiful online platform so voters will engage with the issues.