Seeing the Real Campaign With ProPublica’s Election DataBot

Source: Derek Willis, ProPublica, September 8, 2016

Today ProPublica is launching a new tool, created in partnership with the Google News Lab, that makes it easier for journalists, researchers and citizens to quickly find newsworthy information about the presidential race and congressional campaigns in their states. We’re calling it the Election DataBot because it collects huge amounts of data and reports the most interesting details, in real time — details about campaign finance filings, congressional votes, polls and Google Trends data, among other things.

Think of Election DataBot as your campaign tipsheet: It provides leads, giving you the opportunity to turn them into great stories. It builds on the resources in our other political databases, FEC Itemizer and Represent.

The centerpiece of the Election DataBot is the Firehose, a stream of information pulled from a variety of sources that updates every 15 minutes. The Firehose lets you see a huge amount of data as it comes in. If you’re interested in just Arizona’s Senate race or New Hampshire’s 1st District race, you can get a specific feed of items for those individual races, too.

All of the pages in the DataBot are updated regularly and filtered to show information most useful to reporters and others who need real-time intelligence about the campaigns. It will tell you when a super PAC spends money in a race you care about, when an incumbent member of Congress is the only person to vote against a piece of legislation, when key polls change, and much more.

You can also sign up for email alerts for a particular candidate, committee or race, using a Google account.

We pull data from several sources, including:
– Campaign finance filings from the FEC, updated every 15 minutes using the ProPublica Campaign Finance API. This includes 48-hour notices of funds received, certain regular filings, independent expenditures, and correspondence between committees and the FEC.
– Search trends from Google Trends, including election opponent head-to-head comparisons and trend spike detection, updated every hour.
– Congressional voting data (for incumbents, of course), updated every 30 minutes, via the ProPublica Congress API.
– Race ratings for every House and Senate election from the Cook Political Report, updated daily.
– Polling data from the Huffington Post Pollster API, updated daily.
– Forecasting data for the presidential contest from FiveThirtyEight, updated daily.

We’re interested in what journalists and researchers find interesting or useful within the Election DataBot, and we’re working on adding additional items to the Firehose. Let us know, either in the comments or at electionbot@propublica.org, what works, what doesn’t, and what else you’d like to see between now and Nov. 8.