How Can Big Data Help Political Campaigns?
The goal of every political campaign is to maximize the probability of victory. A campaign consists of two steps:
- Identify those who would vote for you!
- „Get out the vote!” (a political term for mobilizing voter turnout)
To succeed in any of these steps, politicians need every available information about their potential audience. To gain insight into the behaviour of the voters, campaign strategists are becoming more and more reliant on large datasets. Nowadays there is more than ever publicly available data about the population which can be merged with additional data sources, for example purchased databases from commercial firms. When enough data is gathered, experts and technologists with the help of data analytics endeavour to answer questions like: Which segments of the population should I include in the targeted audience? Which channels should I use to reach them? How should I persuade them to donate to the campaign?
Identifying your targeted audience properly is essential to the campaign. Focusing on those who are very likely to vote for you or against you is just a waste of time and money. Once you know your potential voters, you can move on to the next question: how to make sure that your supporters will actually turn up on the day of the election? Although Big Data is a relatively new phenomenon, campaign strategist always relied on some form of data (statistics) and numerous researches were conducted in the topic of ’Get out the vote” campaigns. For instance, whether a segment of the population can be mobilized by volunteers, who contact them on Election Day in person, or a phone call or an e-mail is more expedient.
In these days a growing number of politicials use data as a competitive advantage. Barack Obama may have been a pioneer of this field. His technology team consisted of coders, engineers and data scientists. Their goal was to figure out how social media and smartphones could contribute to the campaign. For each state Obama’s team conducted 5000 to 10000 interviews to determine the preference of the voters. Based on this information they looked for patterns between the voters and derived individual-level scores to estimate how likely is that a given voter would prefer Obama. In 2012 many experts attributed Obama’s success to his data-driven campaign.
- image: http://www.washingtonpost.com/rf/image_296w/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2013/06/14/Outlook/Images/Obama_edited.jpg