Ten Great Online Tools For Tracking Australia's Federal Election

There’s more data available than ever before to help voters navigate the issues in the Australian federal election.

Political parties are engaging with voters directly over the internet at unprecedented levels, and a range of digital innovations from sentiment trackers to campaign material databases and calculators have transformed political analysis.

It’s an election that will be fought on issues including the post-mining-boom economy, asylum seekers and business regulations, and one that will see a record number of candidates listed on ballot sheets on polling day.

Here are ten great tools that could help you make your decision for September 7:

1. Vote Compass

Vote Compass asks a series of questions to determine your position on climate change, gay marriage, workplace protections, healthcare, government spending and the economy, and tells you how well your responses are aligned with the Australian Labor Party, Coalition and Greens.

Vote Compass was developed by political scientists from the University of Toronto and has so far been used to track the 2011 Canadian Federal Election and the 2012 US Presidential Election.

The ABC commissioned an Australian version that was launched on August 4. It has been used 653,596 times so far.

2. Data.afr.com

The AFR has been expanding its data journalism and has deployed a range of tools examining various aspects of the campaign.

There's an interactive poll aggregator that displays the latest findings from the published opinion polls, including the two-party preferred race and approval ratings. There's also a neat map tracking the campaign travels of Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott, which over time will build up a picture of where the party leaders are concentrating their vote-raising efforts.

3. BetMetrix's 2013 Election Probabilities

BetMetrix is an analysis and consulting firm run by two former RBA economists.

Its 2013 Election Probabilities uses data from Sportsbet, Betfair, Centrebet, Luxbet and other betting markets to provide a real-time estimate of whether Australia will have a Labor or the Coalition government this September. Betting markets can be useful indicators of public sentiment - it's well-established that punters are rarely wrong.

4. Antony Green's Election Calculator

ABC election analyst Antony Green runs a well-established Election Calculator that crunches data on Australia's 150 electorates and lets you work out the effects of various vote outcomes on the shape on the next Parliament.

You can use a simple slider to find out what various poll results means for each seat and the election outcome. Or if you disagree with the polls, you can adjust the slider manually to see the outcome of your own predictions.

5. Election Leaflets

OpenAustralia's Election Leaflets website is a collection of publicly contributed, digitised campaign literature that politicians have distributed to Australian homes and businesses.

The organisation hopes that publishing what can be 'targeted, effective and sometimes very bitter' leaflets online will open them up to more public scrutiny and keep politicians honest.

Election Leaflets hosts a total of 161 leaflets for the September election so far.

6. Voice of Australia

News Corp Australia's Voice of Australia tool lets users quickly and easily find out the demographics of their electorate and what promises local candidates have made.

The site uses electorate data from the 2011 ABS Census. Information about candidates' promises is compiled by a team of student journalists from the University of Technology, Sydney.

7. ElectionWatch2013

The University of Melbourne's ElectionWatch 2013 website includes a frequently updated 'LeadersBoard' that tells you where Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd have been campaigning, and what they have been doing.

There's also a great collection of official policy documents from Labor, the Coalition and Greens in the ElectionWatch 2013 Policy Comparator.

The site is run by University of Melbourne academics, including several journalists.

8. Poll Pulse

News Corp Australia's Poll Pulse uses social monitoring service Topsy to analyse public Twitter posts and measure positive and negative sentiment for the two prime ministerial candidates, the four largest political parties, key independents and Clive Palmer.

Users can look at how public sentiment has shifted over the most recent three months, one month, one week and one day.

A separate Talking Points tool on the same webpage measures the volume of Twitter activity day by day in Australia around keywords such as asylum, carbon and mining taxes, economy, education, health and jobs. It shows tweets on the economy are dominating the social conversation.

9. Google Election Trends

Google Australia's Election Trends 2013 is a far cry from its US cousin that tracked the Presidential Election last year but still offers an interesting perspective on the Australian race.

The site is a Google+ photo album full of infographics built from data about what Australians have been searching for online.

People who searched for Kevin Rudd on Google early last month tended to include 'memes', 'Gillard' and 'prime minister' in their search terms, while people who searched for Tony Abbott between July 7 and August 6 looked for 'daughters', 'quotes' and 'Voldemort'.

10. ABC Fact Check

ABC's new Fact Check division is led by veteran journalist and editor Russell Skelton.

One of a range of fact-checking resources for the current campaign, this site looks into public claims by politicians, public figures, advocacy groups and institutions, and marks them red, green or 'in between' for their truthfulness, based on evidence available at the time.

So far, statements by the two prime ministerial candidates, Labor MP Michelle Rowland, Tony Abbott and Bob Carr have been rated 'correct', 'incorrect', 'lawyers' picnic' (it was about gay marriage), and 'unsubstantiated' respectively.

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