About EveryPolitician’s Data

EveryPolitician’s data is not complete. It doesn’t yet cover every nation in the world. We’re working on that (and you can help too!).

In creating EveryPolitician, we’ve made some decisions about what it will — and what it won’t — try to provide. This page explains how and why we made those decisions.

Consistent and useful

EveryPolitician’s goal is to provide basic data on every politician in every national-level legislature in the world, in a consistent and useful format.

The word "consistent" is important, and we use it in a very specific way:

  • We aim to use appropriate standards where possible (particularly Popolo)
  • We try to follow clear conventions about how data within and beyond those standards are expressed

With this in mind, EveryPolitician will only provide data that we’re confident can be expressed in the same manner across the majority of national legislatures. This means there’s useful and interesting data we’re deliberately choosing to not include yet, and some that we probably never will.

Because we’re being very careful about what data we’re including, and exactly what format it will be presented in, you can be very clear what data you can — and cannot — expect to find here, and if you use it, you won’t need to spend so much time dealing with lots of exceptional cases.

(NB: Because some of this data was supplied by other people, we can’t yet completely guarantee that the format for every country is completely identical yet. But we’re actively working on fixing that, so if you find something unexpected, please let us know!)

Why we’re doing this

We want to make it much easier for people to get started when building civic tech tools.

Rather than having to start by finding data and turning that into a usable format — a process that can be deceptively tricky, especially if your tool needs to work across multiple countries — we can provide the initial data so you can concentrate on adding value on top of that.

In many cases the data EveryPolitician provides won’t be enough for what you need — you’ll need to combine it with other information locally.

But you should be able to get started much more quickly, and by using data in the same consistent format that lots of other groups use worldwide, any tools you build for one country are likely to work much more easily in other countries too.

This is part of the Poplus federation’s mission of building and sharing re-usable civic tech. In fact, this project has come about based on our experience of working with code and data reuse across many countries worldwide.

What data we provide

Put most simply, EveryPolitician data is primarily a list of data about people. Those people must be members of a specific legislature (for example, your country’s current parliament).

Those people may be members of factions or parties, and represent particular districts or constituencies, so we provide some information about those too.

There are two distinct types of information provided:

  1. Entity data

  2. Relationship data

Entity data

When we provide details about a Poltician, Political Group/Party, Constituency/District, or Legislative Period/Term, we adhere to the equivalent Popolo Project specification (as a Person, Organization, Area, and Event)

Popolo defines these entities very well, although we make a few extensions to include fields that are not yet standardised, and we plan to tighten things up where there are multiple ways to include the same information.

Relationship data

Not every politician is in EveryPolitician (yet). We’re currently limiting it to members of national-level legislatures (Parliament/Congress/Assembly).

So, for now, the only Relationship information we provide is the Membership of that Legislature. Popolo has not (yet?) standardised how to model things like this, and unfortunately we’ve seen many different, and largely mutually-exclusive, approaches to that, making it very difficult to write tools that can operate on this sort of information.

So we consistently express all such memberships as a Popolo Membership with the following fields:

  • person: the politician (Person)

  • organization: the Legislature itself (Organization)

  • on_behalf_of: the Parliamentary Group (faction, party) they are a member of (Organization)

  • area: the district or constituency, where appropriate (Area)

  • legislative_period: the Term of office (Event)

  • start_date and/or end_date (if these differ from the start or end of the Term)

(People familiar with Popolo might wonder why we don’t use Posts here. Posts can be useful in some contexts, but in our experience we’ve found that they only really work well in places with single-member constituencies, and we believe that the simplicity of having every legislature expressed in exactly the same way is much more valuable than the benefits of sometimes using Posts.)

What we don’t provide (and why)

There is lots of other very valuable data available on politicians worldwide, and eventually we hope to include much more.

But for now we don’t include anything other than the above — no asset declarations, no memberships of corporate boards, or parliamentary committees, or ministerial positions, etc.

Of course we’re not saying that this data isn’t important — far from it! — just that we haven’t yet worked out how to provide it in a way that is consistent and comparable across all national jurisdictions.

As standards or conventions appear around these things, we’ll start to include them, but for now we believe it’s much more important to start with data that can be consistent everywhere.

Wait! EveryPolitician doesn’t tell me who’s President/Prime Minister/Premier?

That’s right – because that’s a role in the executive branch of government, not the legislative branch — and for now we’re only providing legislative information.

In some countries, the head of the government is also member of the legislature, and if so they’ll appear in the data — but simply in the same manner as any other member.

Why don’t you just add a field for “is_leader”, or add an Organisation for the Cabinet?

Yes: we’ve seen people do both of these things — and other things too. And this is an excellent example of why it’s important that data doesn’t solely adhere to a standard, but also that it’s consistent.

We’ve seen about six or seven different ways that some of these things can be expressed, all in perfectly valid Popolo.

Within the context of a single country, each of them makes perfect sense. But because they’re all different, any third-party tool needs to understand how all of them are modelled if it wants to be able to do something with data from multiple different sources.

So we aren’t going to add fields like this until someone works out the best way to do it — in a manner that can work the same way pretty much everywhere, and can cope with all the complexity and idiosyncrasies of all the different ways countries worldwide organise their governance.

If you know how to do that, great! Start a discussion about it on the Popolo tracker, and once there’s consensus we’ll look at adding it.

But doesn’t that make this data incomplete?

Yes it is incomplete, but it’s consistent and useful.

We’re providing a base data set that you can build on. Just because our data doesn’t include a field for who the President is, that doesn’t mean that your application can’t store that separately.

But I already have complete, rich data for my country’s representatives.

You probably don’t need EveryPolitician’s data then. But you could help others.

Let us know (at team@everypolitician.org) what data you have, and we’ll work with you to transform it into the EveryPolitician Popolo format so that everyone else can benefit from it too.