ECLabs and the News Juicer: Spanish presidential election

Politicians love to make promises before elections. But how can voters judge how realistic those promises are – and then keep track of whether the winner keeps their word?

The team of ECLab works on innovative and long term projects at the Spanish online daily newspaper El Confidencial. Leading up to the general election in Spain they developed a tool to monitor the monetary promises of the presidential candidates, called ’’El Prometometro” (Spanish prometer = to promise).

El Prometómetro tracks all concrete promises by the main candidates, related to prospective spending. As of today they have tracked promises of more than 253,000 million Euros since the campaign started. El Confidencial hopes this tool will give context to readers and help them to take a decision in this Sunday’s election. The Data Team gathered the numbers from the main parties’ manifestos and from news articles. To find relevant articles they made use of BBC News Labs’ Juicer API to track promises in debates, interviews and news conferences.

Searching for the word “euros” in combination with the five candidates: Mariano Rajoy (PP), Pedro Sánchez (PSOE), Pablo Iglesias (Podemos), Albert Rivera (Citizens) and Alberto Garzón (IU) they were able to extract the relevant information automatically.

“Although we had to make manual searches in each party manifesto to find the proposals, the Juicer API was very useful to support our work. It helped us not to miss any of the proposals out of the manifestos.”

Together with Google Alerts, the data team said, they were able to cover most of the promises made and built a database of promises that is updated regularly and feeds the interactive visualisation in their data article. In addition, ECLab show the output of their query to the Juicer API for each main candidate on a github page, building on a model by Jason Lee French, from the Wall Street Journal.

With the election only days away, one of El Confidential’s data journalists Adrian Blanco Ramos believes El Prometometro has revealed a valuable insight into each party’s approach to the campaign :

“We have realised that the president Mariano Rajoy and its right wing party are very conservative. They promise very little presumably because the polls say that they are leading the run. On the contrary, Podemos [the party on the left] is one of the parties that makes more concrete promises.”