On the Campaign Trail: Data Collection and Political Elections

Nov 12, 2014 in Mobile

Along the contemporary United States political campaign trail, staffers are leveraging data collection to win votes like never before, with these efforts forming an absolutely integral component of overall strategies. With President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, a sharp turning point in the political data mining movement occurred. The Obama campaign’s data analytics staff—under the leadership of Rayid Ghani, who formerly worked in retail data analytics, among other spheres—created a single streamlined data system that organized intelligence from a multitude of sources, including social media, fundraisers and field workers.

As CNN reported, that immense 2012 data collection enterprise “helped Obama raise $1 billion, remade the process of targeting TV ads and created detailed models of swing-state voters that could be used to increase the effectiveness of everything from phone calls and door knocks to direct mailings and social media.” In short, those data-driven campaign efforts heralded a revolution in campaign planning and played a central role in landing President Obama a second term in the White House.

Today, the data revolution continues, and the Republican Party has played catch-up in the wake of the major technological advances of Obama’s 2012 campaign. Indeed, the Republican Party’s own data-driven strategies are a major reason they seized control of the Senate and retained the House of Representatives in the recent 2014 midterm elections. As Republican National Committee National Field Director Matt Mason told Fox News in October, “One thing that’s a lot different this time around than two years ago—about 75 percent of the data that we are collecting out in the field is through one of our mobile canvassing apps, which means we are getting real-time information from the field back here.”

The Republican data-centric approach to the 2014 elections didn’t stop with the party’s canvassing apps. It also extended into the realm of social media data research, informing how they tailored and targeted messaging on such topics as the Ebola virus and health care. They relied heavily on data from the social listening platform Sprinklr, according to an AdAge story. The article additionally notes that voters can only expect such energies to amplify in the near future, with “a much broader roll out of the analytics platform expected in 2016, which the party says will be accompanied by a bigger social-analytics budget and staff for the presidential race.”

Without question, the transformative power of efficient data collection and analysis is reverberating across trades, and the craft of political campaigning is no exception.