Project description

After the election for the federal parliament in September 2017, there was a discussion in Germany: Why are there so few women in the Bundestag? We discussed the topic in a meeting and were asking ourselves: If there are not enough women in the parliament – who else is missing? How good is the parliament at representing the population of Germany? Does it fulfill its constitutional job to represent the people, all the people?
We set out to answer the question. As in many other countries, Germany encounters a growing polarisation: Some parts of the population don’t feel adressed by the political partys and their elected leaders. Maybe that’s also because they don’t find their kind in parliament. So we think this is an important discussion to have: Does the composition of the German Bundestag match the composition of the population? And if not, who is missing?
Our company has a subscription-based business modell, and we think an ambitious, innovative and relevant project like this helps to engage with our audience.

What makes this project innovative?

We use data to answer the questions we're interested in. After a short research, we figured out that the data to answer our question - does the German parliament match the population? - is not available yet. So we designed, created and analyzed a new data set with information which was never collected before.
To do so, we created a survey and e-mailed it to every member of parliament. About 40 percent answered, so we got extensive insights into the German parliament.

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

Our story created a lot of buzz. It was heavily shared and discussed on social media in Germany (and even abroad, although we didn't offer it in other languages). We got a lot of mails from politicians, political scientists and human beings in general. Some readers sent us elaborated drafts how the political system could be altered to represent people better, which impressed us.
We have sophisticated internal tools in our newsroom to measure how readers engage with our stories, and this story story scored extraordinarily high.

Source and methodology

We created a survey with more than a douzen questions: Where do you live - in a city or on the countryside? Do you have a car? What is your sexual orientation? Have you or have your parents been born in another country?
We e-mailed the survey to all 709 members of the German parliament, and sent a reminder one week later. 280 MPs filled out our questionaire, which is about 40 percent. We were surprised by that big response. Even more promising was the fact that the party distribution in our replies was almost a perfect match to the party distribution in the whole parliament. Which means our participants were evenly split over all the parties.
We completed the survey data with information already available about the MPs, as age and gender.
To compare the parliament to the people, we researched data about the general population. This data was provided by the federal stats office, by a social science research institute and other sources. While designing our survey for the MPs, we already made sure that the same information is also available for the population.
All sources: Statistisches Bundesamt, Leibniz-Institut für Sozialwissenschaften, Deutscher Bundestag, Mediendienst Integration, Dalia Research, Forschungsgruppe Weltanschauungen in Deutschland, Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge

Technologies Used

Data cleaning and analysis was done in R. Packages used include Tidyr, Dplyr and Stringr. We also created our data visualisations in R, using the GGplot package, and refined them in Adobe Illustrator. Animations were done with After Effects. The story was produced in a Content Management System we created in-house with JavaScript.
Collaborating within the team was made possible with Git, Slack and Post-its on a wall.

Project members

Katharina Brunner, Sabrina Ebitsch, Christian Endt, Julian Hosse, Martina Schories, Benedict Witzenberger, Moritz Zajonz

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