Traditional political campaigns relied on aiming at the target audience in a more localized fashion. During traditional campaigns, we used to hear speakers urging people to vote for a specific party, and as a result could reach out to a limited audience only. Such electoral campaigns did have an impact on the people, but a rather small one. Analytics in politics is changing that.
Data analytics typically refer to the process of refining and sorting the information. This can be done with the help of specialized systems and software that hold expertise in refining data sets.
With time, political parties have changed the norm of traditional campaigning methods, and have planned to combine data analytics in their campaigning tactics.
Data isn’t new, but we often forget that. In fact, even Sherlock Holmes recognized the power of data, as we can tell from one of his most famous quotes: “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
This is especially relevant to us in an age of fake news and a time in which politicians are arguably being held more accountable than ever thanks to our newfound ability to process and understand data. Politicians are finding that it’s more and more difficult to “twist facts to suit theories” when thousands of wannabe Holmeses are taking to Reddit to debunk them.
Data is so important these days that it’s overtaken oil as the world’s most valuable resource, which of course means it’s a hot topic amongst politicians. Governmental organizations are learning to understand and deal with data at regional, national and international levels, not because they want to but because they have to. Data is just that important.
HOW ANALYTICS IN POLITICS CHANGED U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
Everyone remembers the 2016 presidential election, where Donald Trump managed a sweeping victory over his rival Hillary Clinton. While people wondered how he managed to emerge victorious, Trump’s electoral campaigns took the help of data analytics that resulted in a better result for his political party.
Using psychographic profiling, Trump became a sensation on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. Using this technique, the now POTUS managed to target the right batch of potential voters throughout the United States. Data analytics in politics helped him acquire a broader outreach.
This way, Donald Trump managed to “know” about the data that was previously un-analyzed and untouched.
But even still we are left with the question of...”How?”
To understand how data has changed politics, you need to first understand what big data is and how its complex interplay with machine learning is a game changer. Big data is essentially just data at a massive scale, while machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence which relies on teaching computers to “think” like human beings so that they can solve abstract problems.
Netflix’s recommendation system is a great example of big data and machine learning in action. Their algorithms are able to process the huge amounts of viewing data that they store on each of their users and then to crunch the numbers and to make super relevant recommendations. The machine learning algorithm learns as it goes, which means that the more data it has access to, the better it gets. We see this with Instagram’s “explore” page and Twitter’s “trending for you” hotspot.
At first glance, it might seem as though this doesn’t relate back to politics, but the same idea applies no matter what the data itself actually concerns. For example, imagine if the mayor’s office had access to real-time traffic data which could be analysed by machine learning algorithms to provide suggestions in real time about when to close roads or to re-route traffic. We’re talking about an algorithm that has the potential to save lives.
Data is knowledge and knowledge is power, which is one of the reasons why data has changed the way we think about politics. You just have to look at the Cambridge Analytica scandal to see how much of a difference data can make, especially when it comes to elections. It’s not even anything new. After all, Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign was largely successful because of its smart use of big data.
HOW ANALYTICS IN POLITICS HELPS
Big data analytics helps in refining information and in reaching actionable insights that drive future strategies. When Outlining a Campaign Roadmap, it is important to It revolutionized the way Americans look at politics and in the process changed the entire game over the course of time.
Using big data analytics in politics helps electoral parties in knowing their voters better and to influence them more effectively. Politicians come to know what appeals to their audiences and can plan their campaigning accordingly. Social media is the prime source for such information.
While we thought that technology and politics had nothing in common, recent revelations on the power of this combination has urged people to experiment with it. It would be entirely affirming to see what more big data, analytics, and other modern day technologies can do in politics and how they can change the course of political campaigning.
Much of what big data does is it has the ability to allow campaigns to pinpoint their most likely supporters. This streamlined campaigning down and allows for only supporters and likely supporters to be mobilized as opposed to wasting time persuading their neighbors.
Data – or more specifically, the interpretation of it – can make or break a political campaign. While it’s true that it can help people get elected into office, it can also help them do their jobs much more effectively and efficiently. We’ve already talked about data being used to improve traffic flows and to make roads safer. Now imagine that the same concept could be rolled out in every single area that it’s a government’s job to oversee and facilitate.
When it comes to debates, which politicians tend to be pretty good at, one of the most powerful assets to have is a set of data that supports the point that you’re trying to make. The only problem is that while data doesn’t lie, people do. People also disagree on what exactly the data means, and there are often multiple different potential conclusions that could be drawn. There’s often no one right answer.
That’s assuming that politicians even have access to the data in the first place. After all, one of the biggest debates of our time is the debate over privacy and what data companies should be able to store about us. You only have to look at the incoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to see how times are changing.
Politicians find themselves in the interesting position of having to define these new rules and regulations whilst simultaneously working within their constraints. There’s also the risk that we’ll end up with people who don’t really know what they’re talking about drafting legislation that could cripple the future of the internet before it really has time to settle in as a medium. After all, the World Wide Web is less than thirty years old. When you compare it to some of our other inventions as a species, it’s just a baby. A baby made up of millions of terabytes of data.
Big data will move us away from trying to “predict” election outcomes and instead help us explain them. Prediction is fun but may not allow us to understand the underlying causes of a phenomenon or outcome. This is wherein the dissatisfaction lies. Using the data to focus on developing a clearer understanding of how the world works, how humans interact in it and how these interactions produce outcomes, can provide enlightenment. Ultimately, this enlightenment can arm us with higher quality information than prediction alone.
For those who seek to use these tools for influence, or to help achieve particular policy outcomes, wouldn’t it be better to know how and why something works, rather than whether or not it is likely to happen?
Rather than asking, “Who will win?” or “Which will pass?” perhaps we should ask, “Why is one candidate ahead?” and “What are the conditions that make a policy gain traction?”
Big data can help us do both. Finding causal mechanism and developing plausible explanations are challenging, and may be more work than building predictive models. But if we use our masses of data to help us engage in both of these, we can have our cake and its icing.
Our experts at RoboCent understand the usefulness of big data and where it will help your campaign effectively. We are here to help you form a Practical Game Plan to Launch a Winning Political Campaign and we will start by looking at the big data surrounding your race and show you the best way to utilize it during the length of your campaign cycle. Let our Strategic Solutions program show you the ropes and win you the seat you seek!