Technology drives the modern world and elections are no exception to this paradigm shift in how the first world functions. For quite some time marketing experts around the world have specialized in collecting data and analyzing it to sell products and services. Political campaigns, in particular Obama's 2012 presidential campaign have largely taken to this model to reach and mobilize voters. Several other campaigns have since geared themselves to take advantage of new data to win elections.
The role of technology in modern politics is undeniable. Politicians are expended to dedicate nearly 10 percent ($1 billion) of their media budgets toward social media. They're doing it because it works. CFB Strategies, a leader in data management for political campaigns and non-profits, helps drive campaigns and organizations such as Ted Cruz for President, including the campaign's #CruzCrowd initiative. Since its launch in October 2015, CruzCrowd has grown to 4,000 users with more than 500,000 weekly impressions on social media.
Prior to the huge burst in social media political campaigns had to use very time and labor-intensive techniques to gather information. Local canvassing, focus groups, phone calls and voter IDs led the way. Recent campaigns aren't just reaching voters through new data; they're integrating this information into those "old" methods having a huge impact on building support and mobilizing voters to the polls.
Collecting the Data
First party information is always a valuable asset since the information comes directly, willingly and is unfiltered. This is the information that's been around and has been used to create a core group of supporters and focus groups. Second and third party data is becoming increasingly valuable due to social media. For example, Facebook can see what people "like", the pages they follow, the keywords they use in posts. Harboring this data can almost predict their political affiliation and allow campaigns to target those voters. While it may not always lead to complete accuracy the results are still quite substantial compared to the ways of the past.
The traditional campaign's focused on using first party information and speaking with a small group of people (About 160). They followed their opinions in the months throughout the campaigning period. The hope was that the opinions and feelings of this group could be extrapolated to represent the majority of voters.
New data driven elections that use second and third party information put the general consensus of a group aside and focus on each micro event throughout a campaign. For example, rather than tracking the approval rating for a candidate data is used to determine how each event such as the addition of a running mate, political party scandals and the like impact voters.
Using the Data to Draw Voters
The new methods of data collection lead the way for new marketing tactics. Since the data allows campaigns to see specific reactions they can create specific messages and advertisements known as microtargeting. As they already know the opinions of people they can have multiple messages delivered to their social media platforms that have the same end result. For instance as an opponent takes a stand on a topic at a debate the opposing campaign can craft several different ads that will appeal to different populations while delivering an analogous message. The old methods of TV and print content couldn't be crafted as specifically.
New Data Leads the Old Techniques Forward
Despite the new sources of data and abilities to target messages through the internet, in person conversations still have a massive impact. Local canvassing or going door to door leads to the most effective results. This is even truer today as these efforts also use microtargeting. The messages are no longer the same for each household. Canvassers are using mobile applications to determine which message to deliver to which house using big data. Even the canvasser is changed for each house so that things like demographics and geographics are streamlined to give the biggest appeal to different residences.
Data Will Continue to Drive Winning Elections
Just as marketers gear their ads towards specific groups, campaigners are gearing and targeting their messages towards voters. Obama lead the way in 2012 but many other political groups have experienced similar results such as the Canadian Liberals and the GOP nominees this election cycle.
As data driven elections are rather new, they will only become more sophisticated, accurate and prevalent over time. It's important to note that even though much of this campaign tool comes from and goes through the internet and social media it's being integrated down the tiniest levels. Everything from a casual conversation to a planned canvassing by local supporters is all data driven to secure votes.