HW 03 - Money in politics

Due: 12 November, 16:00 UK time

In this assignment you will work on data scraping. Having worked through the interactive tutorial titled Money in politics will be a good preparation for this homework assignment as you’ll be working with the same website.

IMPORTANT:

In this assignment you will have two automated checks: One checking whether your Rmd file knits and the other checking the structure of your Rmd file. Passing the first check requires that, well, your Rmd file knits without errors. Passing the second check requires (1) that you haven’t changed the structure of the template you’re working off of (e.g. haven’t removed headings like Exercise 1, Code, Narrative and have not changed the labels of the code chunks) and (2) that you attempted all questions. These checks are meant to guide you along the way, they’re not an indicator for your score. You can’t get full marks on the assignment if you didn’t pass both, but failing one of them doesn’t mean you get a 0 either.

For each assignment in this course you will start with a GitHub repo that I created for you and that contains the starter documents you will build upon when working on your assignment. The first step is always to bring these files into RStudio so that you can edit them, run them, view your results, and interpret them. This action is called cloning.

Then you will work in RStudio on the data analysis, making commits along the way (snapshots of your changes) and finally push all your work back to GitHub.

Next, get the URL of the repo to be cloned, go to RStudio Cloud and navigate to the course workspace via the left sidebar, and clone the repo. If you would like to step-by-step instructions with screenshots, please review HW 00.

Chances are your browser has already saved your password, but if not, you can ask Git to save (cache) your password for a period of time, where you indicate the period of time in seconds. For example, if you want it to cache your password for 1 hour, that would be 3,600 seconds. To do so, run the following in the console, usethis::use_git_config(credential.helper = "cache --timeout=3600"). If you want to cache it for a longer amount of time, you can adjust the number in the code.

Packages

In this assignment we will use the following packages:

• tidyverse: a collection of packages for doing data analysis in a “tidy” way
• robotstxt: provides functions to download and parse robots.txt files, making it easy to check if bots (spiders, crawler, scrapers, …) are allowed to access specific resources on a domain
• rvest: helps you scrape information from web pages
• scales: provides the internal scaling infrastructure used by ggplot2 and gives you tools to override the default breaks, labels, transformations and palettes

Data collection via web scraping

The data come from OpenSecrets.org, a “website tracking the influence of money on U.S. politics, and how that money affects policy and citizens’ lives”. This website is hosted by The Center for Responsive Politics, which is a nonpartisan, independent nonprofit that “tracks money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy.”1 Source: Open Secrets - About.

Before getting started, let’s check that a bot has permissions to access pages on this domain.

library(robotstxt)
paths_allowed("https://www.opensecrets.org")
## [1] TRUE

Our goal is to scrape data for contributions in all election years Open Secrets has data for. Since that means repeating a task many times, let’s first write a function that works on the first page. Confirm it works on a few others. Then iterate it over pages for all years.

Complete the following set of steps in the scrape-pac.R file in the scripts folder of your repository. This file already contains some starter code to help you out.

• Write a function called scrape_pac() that scrapes information from the Open Secrets webpage for foreign-contected PAC contributions in a given year. This function should

• have one input: the URL of the webpage and should return a data frame.
• rename variables scraped, using snake_case naming.
• clean up the Country of Origin/Parent Company variable with str_squish().
• add a new column to the data frame for year. We will want this information when we ultimately have data from all years, so this is a good time to keep track of it. Our function doesn’t take a year argument, but the year is embedded in the URL, so we can extract it out of there, and add it as a new column. Use the str_sub() function to extract the last 4 characters from the URL. You will probably want to look at the help for this function to figure out how to specify “last 4 characters”.
• Define the URLs for 2020, 2018, and 1998 contributions. Then, test your function using these URLs as inputs. Does the function seem to do what you expected it to do?

• Construct a vector called urls that contains the URLs for each webpage that contains information on foreign-connected PAC contributions for a given year.

• Map the scrape_pac() function over urls in a way that will result in a data frame called pac_all.

• Write the data frame to a csv file called pac-all.csv in the data folder.

✅⬆️ If you haven’t yet done so, now is definitely a good time to commit and push your changes to GitHub with an appropriate commit message (e.g. “Data scraping complete”). Make sure to commit and push all changed files so that your Git pane is cleared up afterwards.

1. In your R Markdown file, load pac-all.csv and report its number of observations and variables using inline code.

Data cleaning

In this section we clean the pac_all data frame to prepare it for analysis and visualization. We have two goals in data cleaning:

• Separate the country_parent into two such that country and parent company appear in different columns for country-level analysis.

• Convert contribution amounts in total, dems, and repubs from character strings to numeric values.

The following exercises walk you through how to make these fixes to the data.

1. Use the separate() function to separate country_parent into country and parent columns. Note that country and parent company names are separated by \ (which will need to be specified in your function) and also note that there are some entries where the \ sign appears twice and in these cases we want to only split the value at the first occurrence of \. This can be accomplished by setting the extra argument in to "merge" so that the cell is split into only 2 segments, e.g. we want "Denmark/Novo Nordisk A/S" to be split into "Denmark" and "Novo Nordisk A/S". (See help for separate() for more on this.) End your code chunk by printing out the top 10 rows of your data frame (if you just type the data frame name it should automatically do this for you).

2. Remove the character strings including $ and , signs in the total, dems,and repubs columns and convert these columns to numeric. End your code chunk by printing out the top 10 rows of your data frame (if you just type the data frame name it should automatically do this for you). A couple hints to help you out: • The $ character is a special character so it will need to be escaped.

• Some contribution amounts are in the millions (e.g. Anheuser-Busch contributed a total of \$1,510,897 in 2008). In this case we need to remove all occurrences of ,, which we can do by using str_remove_all() instead of str_remove().

🧶 ✅ ⬆️ Now is a good time to knit your document, and commit and push your changes to GitHub with an appropriate commit message. Make sure to commit and push all changed files so that your Git pane is cleared up afterwards.

Data visualization and interpretation

1. Create a line plot of total contributions from all foreign-connected PACs in the Canada and Mexico over the years. Once you have made the plot, write a brief interpretation of what the graph reveals. Few hints to help you out:

• Filter for only Canada and Mexico.
• Calculate sum of total contributions from PACs for each year for each country by using a sequence of group_by() then summarise().
• Make a plot of total contributions (y-axis) by year (x-axis) where two lines identified by different colours represent each of Canada and Mexico.
1. Recreate the following visualisation. Once you have made the plot, write a brief interpretation of what the graph reveals. Note that these are only UK contributions. You will need to make use of functions from the scales package for axis labels as well as from ggplot2. Remember, if you can’t figure out certain bits, you can always ask on Piazza!

🧶 ✅ ⬆️ Knit your document, and commit and push your changes to GitHub with an appropriate commit message. Make sure to commit and push all changed files so that your Git pane is cleared up afterwards.