The importance of information in Elections.

Figure 1: Truman celebrating his re-election.

On the 3rd of November 1948, the headline of the Chicago Daily tribune was:

Dewey defeated Truman”

However, Truman was re-elected as president due to the fact that he won the majority of the votes.

Therefore, the question remains how could it be possible that one of the most prominent news providers got it wrong?

The pre-electoral polls gave Dewey a large advantage over Truman. The issues with those polls were that there were not representative of the US population in the fall of 1948.

This historical example shows us that having the wrongful information can lead to tragic consequences. It also shows how information systems can help an election process. Unfortunately, for Dewey the technology at the time did not allow for it.

Today, Information technology allows for very précised and detailed segregation of the population. The voting population can be segregated by income, gender, sex, religion, ethnicity, and age. Almost everything, you name it!

A serious campaign manager knows with reasonable assurance the proportion of votes that his candidate will gather within each district. Moreover, it allows them to focus their campaign on certain geographical areas or topics.

In the US presidential elections of the year 2000, there was a minuscule gap between Albert Arnold Gore, and George Walker Bush. In the final days before the elections Florida was one of the biggest battleground states, meaning that polls could not predicts which way the state will vote at the elections. Bush’s electoral campaign decided to put all it’s forces onto winning the Sunshine state. This gamble paid off because Florida overly voted for Bush and was one of the main reasons got his first term in office.

There is a saying that politicians change opinions as the wind blows. Often it happens that politicians change their rhetoric to please their electoral base. However, as Big Data made an entrance into the US presidential elections in 2008 and at a more advanced level in 2012 it became clear that politicians can do much more than that. For a reason Obama employed more than 100 data scientists in the 2012 elections. Through them they were able to build a data set larger than 100TB. They were not only processing and collecting much bigger volumes of data but mostly able to automate personalized communication with potential voters. This data set could be used to e.g. automatically send you a personalized email from your local politicians about topics you previously seemed interested about when a campaign helper visited your home 2 days earlier.

In light of the above-mentioned facts, do you think that politicians will use big Data to program their campaigns with the sole purpose of pleasing the specific voters or whether they have inherent beliefs and values that will remain phrased the same for each voter?




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