The Data of Politics

By Joey Gale

In the 2012 presidential elections, Barack Obama hired a data analytics team five times the size of his 2008 campaign. Why? Data combined with highly targeted marketing efforts will win you an election. Below I’ll explain why.

Reince Priebus was elected Chairman of the Republican National Committee on January 14, 2011, and reelected on January 25, 2013, putting him on track to become only the seventh person to serve four years as Republican Party Chairman.

Reince Priebus was elected Chairman of the Republican National Committee on January 14, 2011, and reelected on January 25, 2013, putting him on track to become only the seventh person to serve four years as Republican Party Chairman.

Monday at the Washington Center we heard from the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Preibus. Preibus shared that the GOP focused more on data this past election cycle more than it ever had before. He explained an algorithm the party created that outputted a constituent’s propensity to vote for a specific candidate.

With big data, you can nail down who a person is, where they live, what they watch on TV, where they get their news, what music they listen to, and so on. After creating a constituent profile, Preibus explained how they can statistically prove how likely a person is to vote and who a person will vote for. This information alone is incredibly powerful, what you do with it is what can win an election.

For example, Preibus explained that if you can build a profile of voters who have a very low propensity to vote for your candidate, you can use this to your advantage. Instead of identifying this group and just accepting them as a lost cause, you can target and advertise negative campaign ads to them to decrease their chance of voting for the opposition or even voting at all.

Back in 2012, President Obama’s team was able to dial in on data that showed George Clooney had a strong influence on a key demographic most likely to fork over cash to a campaign, West Coast females ages 40-49. With these insights, Obama was able to pull in new voters while raising campaign funds at the same time.

As a future marketer, this is the kind of knowledge and information that I thrive on. This is what big data is capable of. Whether or not it is pushing the boundaries of personal voter privacy is a bigger issue. At the heart of this all is the moral question on the power of information and what information should be accessible to politicians. Comment below on what you think about big data and privacy.

At the end of the 2012 presidential election, a group of Obama’s key staffers shared with TIME magazine the massive data effort that catapulted Obama into his second term. Under the hood was an engine built mostly on data. That data led to campaign fundraising which helped the President raise over $1 Billion. I can only imagine that in 2016, these tools will be dialed in even more.

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