PolTrack.org Blog

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PolTrack.org Blog

An explanation of terms used in the PolTrack app.

Action

Anything verifiable an actor does in their official capacity during their term in office. We focus on actions that impact a significant number of the actor's constituents.

Example: casting a vote for or against a piece of legislation during a roll call vote in the U.S. Senate or in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Action Match

A graphic used in PolTrack Reports to indicate whether the action taken by an actor matched the position of an information provider on a specific action target. means match.

Action Opinion

An opinion of an info provider about an action target.

Any views expressed in action opinions reprinted in PolTrack are those of the information providers (the action opinion authors) and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of PolTrack editors or Voter Information Services.

Example: a description of a legislation considered by the U.S. Congress and an indication of whether this legislation is viewed by the opinion provider as being "beneficial" or "harmful".

Action Target

Something that can be affected by an action of an actor.

Example: A roll call (recorded) vote by members of the U.S. Congress.

Action Type

The type of action an actor can take with respect to an action target.

Example: U.S. Congress members (actors) can take different actions on a piece of legislation. They can vote on it OR they can register as official co-sponsors.

Actor

A person elected to a political office while he/she is able to perform the duties of the given political office.

Examples: A U.S. President after inauguration or a member of the U.S. Congress after being sworn to his/her office.

Information Provider

An organization (e.g. a lobby or a public interest group) or an individual that authored an action opinion reprinted in PolTrack.

Examples: the ACLU, Gun Owners of America, the League of Conservation Voters.

PolTrack Score

A numerical score between 0 and 100 calculated by PolTrack for one scorecard. The score indicates the level of agreement between the actual actions of an actor and the actions an info provider wanted the actor to take on an issue of interest to the provider.

The higher the score, the closer the match between the actor's actions and the stance on issues of the info provider.

Scores are calculated only for scorecards with four or more action opinions.

PolTrack Scores are calculated by PolTrack. They have not been endorsed by the respective information providers. Some info providers publish their own ratings of politicians. Those ratings may be different than the corresponding PolTrack scores.

Scorecard

A collection of action opinions from a single info provider.

By using the PolTrack application, you agree to the PolTrack Legal Terms that are included in the application.

After you configure the report input parameters (actors, information providers, and action opinions) in PolTrack, you can request a PolTrack Report. This report is the primary output of the PolTrack app.

This blog post provides an overview of the information contained in a PolTrack Report and in two drill-down reports called Scorecard Detail and Action Detail, which can be accessed from a PT Report.

PolTrack Report

This report contains bar graphs. There is one graph for each scorecard configured for the report. There are two types of graphs: with score and without score.

Graphs WITH Score

In the above graph, 2018 U.S. Senate is the name of the scorecard the graph represents and 71 is the PolTrack Score for this scorecard.

Graphs WITHOUT Score

This graph has no score because the scorecard 2015 U.S. Senate Economic Liberty has fewer than four action opinions. The action opinions for a No Score scorecard are still available in the Scorecard Detail report.

Scorecard Detail

Any views expressed in action opinions reprinted in PolTrack are those of the information providers (the action opinion authors) and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of PolTrack editors or Voter Information Services.

To view the Scorecard Detail report for a scorecard, click the scorecard's bar graph in the PolTrack Report. The picture below is an example of a Scorecard Detail report with red annotations describing the content of the report. Please refer to the PolTrack Glossary for more information about the annotations.

This report provides information about all actions included in one scorecard.

Actor Action Icon

The exact meaning depends on the action type. For congressional votes, the icon indicates how a Congress member voted during a roll call vote (YEA or NAY).

On laptop/desktop computers, placing the cursor over the icon will show a small pop-up with a description of the action.

Action Match Icon

Indicates whether the action taken by the actor matched the action preferred by the info provider. Check Mark () means match.

Action Detail

To view the Action Detail report for an action target, click the Action Detail Button in a Scorecard Detail Report. This report is available only for action targets for which there is an opinion in PolTrack from more than one info provider. The report shows the action opinion and preferred action from all info providers for one action target.

The sample above is the Action Detail for one action target - 2018 Senate roll call 11. Red annotations again describe the content. The report shows the action opinions from two information providers. It also includes an action match indicator showing whether the actor (Senator Markey) supported the position of a provider on this particular issue.

Use this tool to enter opinions about the actions of elected officials into PolTrack.

Open PolTrack app if needed, then click Action Info Entry in the top menu.

Selecting Info Provider

  1. Click ADD INFO PROVIDER.
  2. Enter cons* in the search box and click SEARCH PROVIDERS.
  3. In the search results, select Consumers Union, click Save and BACK.

Creating Scorecard

  1. Click the more icon (⋮) to the left of Consumers Union and select Add Scorecard. A scorecard is a collection of action opinions from one opinion provider (Consumers Union, in this case).
  2. Select U.S. Senate from Politicians dropdown, enter 2020 U.S. Senate Scorecard as Scorecard Description, and click Save.

Adding Action Opinion

  1. Click the more icon (⋮) to the left of 2020 U.S. Senate Scorecard and select Add Action Opinion.
  2. Select Cast a Roll Call Vote as the Action Type and click NEXT.
  3. Enter 2020, 123, Yea Vote, and 2 as Vote Year, Vote Number, Action desired by provider, and Action weight respectively. Action desired by provider is the action the opinion provider (Consumers Union) wanted the politicians (the U.S. Senate) to take on this particular Senate roll call vote. Click NEXT.
  4. Evidence is the web address of the action opinion where it was published by its author (info provider). For this demo, enter the complete address (URL) of a safe website, including the https:// prefix, in the Evidence Web Address input box. For example, https://www.vis.org.
  5. Click Verify Evidence. Close any new browser tab or window showing the sample website. You will have to allow pop-ups from https://wwww.poltrack.org in your browser for this step to work.
  6. Check the Evidence address is CORRECT checkbox and click NEXT.
  7. Enter, for example, Vote 123 Title and Vote 123 description. as Action Info Title and Action Info content.
  8. Check the Action info title and content are CORRECT checkbox and click NEXT.
  9. To see what the action opinion you entered would look like in the PolTrack report, click REVIEW. Then click SAVE.
  10. Click CANCEL to return to the main Action Info Entry page.
  11. Click the 2020 U.S. Senate Scorecard scorecard title to expand this scorecard.
  12. Click the 2020 U.S. Senate rc# 123 : Yea Vote : 2 action summary to see the complete information about this action as it would appear in a PolTrack report.
  13. Click the more icon (⋮) to the left of 2020 U.S. Senate Scorecard and select Finalize Scorecard. Confirm the finalize operation.

Submitting Information to PolTrack

At this point, the sample Action Info Update (AIU) that you just created is ready to be submitted to the PolTrack team for review.

There is a fee payable in PT Coins that you will be charged at the time of the initial submission of an AIU for review. The fee covers the review of the initial submission and the reviews of submissions of two revisions to the original submission.

  1. Click Ready TO SUBMIT. You must be signed in into PolTrack and you must have selected a PT Membership with a sufficient PT Coins balance to continue past this point.

Additional information about the submission process will be provided soon.

Back to PolTrack Demo Scripts

Activating PT Membership

Open PolTrack app if needed.

  1. Click My PolTrack circle icon in the top right corner and select Membership.
  2. Click HELP button to see an explanation of how PT Membership works and then click CLOSE.
  3. If there is a currently selected membership with ID starting with 89DF..., continue with Step 7, otherwise continue with the next step.
  4. Click the SEARCH button.
  5. Copy the Test Membership ID starting with 89DF... shown below, paste it in the search input box, answer math question, and click SEARCH at the bottom of the screen.
    89DF2C2B-6F74-4D42-A858-3FA92EE8A3B3
  6. Click the SELECT button in the membership Status screen.
  7. Click Configuration in the top/main menu, then click DONE WITH CONFIGURATION.

Getting PT Report

A PT Report uses numerical scores between 0 and 100 and bar graph graphics to show the level of agreement between the stance on issues of a politician (as expressed by his/her actions) and the stance on the same issues of an info provider.

  1. Click DONE WITH CONFIGURATION button or select Report from the top menu.
  2. Click SHOW REPORT CONFIGURATION and then HIDE REPORT CONFIGURATION.
  3. Note the cost of this PolTrack report in PT Coins.
  4. Click GET POLTRACK REPORT.

Scorecard Detail Report

A Scorecard is a collection of action opinions from one info provider. Scorecard Detail Report shows all actions included in a scorecard and used in the score calculation.

  1. In DeSantis, Ronald D section, click the bar graph representing the 2014 U.S. House of Representatives scorecard from American Conservative Union.
  2. Click the blue [more] link at the end of the description of 2014 House roll call vote 21.
  3. Close the vote description and scorecard detail pop-ups.
  4. Scorecards with three of fewer action opinions have no numeric score. In Rubio, Marco A section, click the bar graph labeled No Score of the 2016 U.S. Senate scorecard from National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.
  5. Close the pop-up using the Close button or by clicking anywhere outside the pop-up window.

Action Detail Report

This report shows opinions from all info providers in PolTrack about a particular action. It is available only for actions that have an opinion from more than one info provider.

  1. In DeSantis, Ronald D section of the PolTrack Report, click the bar graph representing the 2017 U.S. House of Representatives scorecard from League of Conservation Voters.
  2. Find the action 2017 House roll call vote 45 (third from the top) and click Action Detail button for this action.
  3. Close the Action Detail and Scorecard Detail pop-ups.

Back to PolTrack Demo Scripts

Selecting Politicians

When following the demo scripts steps, please use the politicians specified by the script. PolTrack currently uses a test database that includes only members of the U.S. Congress elected before 2017. We expect to have an updated database available in the summer of 2024.

Open PolTrack app and click Configuration in the top menu.

  1. Click Add Politicians
  2. Enter senator + florida in search input box and click SEARCH.
  3. Click the checkbox next to Rubio, Marco A to select this politician.
  4. Enter desant* in search input box and click SEARCH.
  5. Select DeSantis, Ronald D and click BACK.

Selecting Action Opinions by Provider Name

  1. Click the more icon (⋮) to the right of DeSantis, Ronald D and select Add Action Opinions.
  2. Make sure BY INFO PROVIDER tab is selected and click GET INFO PROVIDERS.
  3. In the search results, click the checkbox next to American Conservative Union.
  4. Click Filter by provider name toggle button and confirm the deletion of previous search results.
  5. Type cons* in the input box below the toggle button, hit ENTER, and click NEW SEARCH.
  6. In the search results, click the checkbox next to League of Conservation Voters, scroll up if needed, and click BACK.

Selecting Action Opinions by Action Keywords

  1. Click the more icon (⋮) to the right of Rubio and select Add Action Opinions.
  2. Click vertical more (three vertical dots) icon to the right of DeSantis, Ronald D and select Add Action Opinions.
  3. Click BY ACTION KEYWORDS tab, type guns "social security" including the double quote marks in action keywords input box, and click SEARCH ACTIONS.
  4. Select (click the checkbox next to) the first search result item (2017 Senate roll call vote 66).
  5. Scroll down in the search results if necessary and find the action opinion labeled S. 731 introduced in 2015 from provider National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.
  6. Click the blue [more] link. Close the pop-up by clicking the Close button at the bottom of the page.
  7. Select the S. 731 introduced in 2015 action opinion by clicking its checkbox and click BACK to return to the main Report Configuration page.

Re-using Configuration

The PolTrack app saves the most recent PT Report configuration in your browser.

  1. Close the web browser window or tab in which the PolTrack app is running.
  2. Re-open PolTrack in the same browser you had used before. (For example, if you used Firefox, be sure to re-open PolTrack in Firefox.)
  3. You should see the PT Report configuration you had used last. If you followed the above script exactly, that configuration should consist of two politicians:
    • DeSantis, Ronald D with two info providers: American Conservative Union and League of Conservation Voters.
    • Rubio, Marco A also with two info providers: Gunowners of America and National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

By using the PolTrack application, you agree to the PolTrack Legal Terms that are included in the application.

NOTE: While using PolTrack, please use the BACK button within the app for navigation. If you use your browser's BACK button, the app will not behave as you would expect.

The following demo scripts can be used as a quick introduction to PolTrack features:

  1. Configuring PolTrack Report
  2. Getting and Using PolTrack Report
  3. Entering Action Opinions

The scripts are correct as of PolTrack version 0.71.0.

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