Infoscience

Conference paper

Mining Democracy

Switzerland has a long tradition of direct democracy, which makes it an ideal laboratory for research on real-world politics. Similar to recent open government initiatives launched worldwide, the Swiss government regularly releases datasets related to state affairs and politics. In this paper, we propose an exploratory, data-driven study of the political landscape of Switzerland, in which we use opinions expressed by candidates and citizens on a web platform during the recent Swiss parliamentary elections, together with fine-grained vote results and parliament votes. Following this purely data-driven approach, we show that it is possible to uncover interesting patterns that would otherwise require both tedious manual analysis and domain knowledge. In particular, we show that traditional cultural and/or ideological idiosyncrasies can be highlighted and quantified by looking at vote results and pre-election opinions. We propose a technique for comparing the candidates' opinions expressed before the elections with their actual votes cast in the parliament after the elections. This technique spots politicians that do not vote consistently with the opinions that they expressed during the campaign. We also observe that it is possible to predict surprisingly precisely the outcome of nationwide votes, by looking at the outcome in a single, carefully selected municipality. Our work applies to any country where similar data is available; it points to some of the avenues created by user-generated data emerging from open government initiatives, which enable new data-mining approaches to political and social sciences.

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