Big Data and Politics
The US presidential election is knocking at the door, and the race is still wide open. Just about anything could happen between now and November 8, and probably will. But one thing is clear: the winner will definitely have a very good big data analytics strategy as was seen in the last two elections.
In 2008 and 2012, what made Barack Obama move ahead of his rivals was effective use of big data analytics. Americans got their first taste of how big data analytics and social media could impact a political race in 2008, when Obama’s campaign team wielded the combination to great effect. Many political pundits believe that big data analytics played a very important role in Obama’s victory.
“In 2008, the narrative was that Democrats were so much smarter and so much farther ahead than Republicans in this area, and that’s just not the case at all at this point. It’s a very level playing field in terms of the innovation that’s going on, on both sides of the aisle,” says Tom Bonier, the CEO of TargetSmart, which provides big data analytics and services to the national and state Democratic parties and their political allies.
But that advantage has all but disappeared this time around as Repulicans have understood their mistake and are investing and relying big time on big data. So there has been big investments, not only on party platforms, but in the formation of companies like Deep Root, the company is essentially the big data arm of the GOP, providing data and analytic services to Republicans running for office, to really dive in and help them in big data analytics. In that respect, one could argue that big data will be less of a factor than in 2008 or 2012, when it was still fairly new and novel.
Before discussing the nitty gritties further, let’s first try to understand how these companies use big data to the advantage of their respective political parties. Use software from Alteryx to help them ingest, cleanse, blend, and analyze massive amounts of data from a variety of sources. One of the most impactful ways this analytic software is being used it segmenting and scoring all voting-age Americans, and using that information to optimize their spending on media–those all-important TV ads, in particular.
Now that they have established their foot in the TV, they now plan to venture beyond TV and into digital mediums, such as social media. Much of the big data in the election cycle will go towards leveraging Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other popular social networks.
But the going is tough in social, as the data is a little more sketchy, and it’s not so easy to know who you’re reaching with media buys. As the classic old New Yorker cartoon says, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”
Moreover, in social media you don’t know you’re getting the people you need to talk to, so campaigns haven’t spent nearly as much on digital as they have on broadcast TV and other forms of communications.
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