Data analytics is the general term for any process that looks at data sets to make conclusions or recognize patterns. It is a science that has become increasingly important in today’s digital era, particularly with the growing popularity of social media, online shopping, and other web activities. There has never been more raw data available—and by analyzing it, researchers can gain valuable insights into human preferences, beliefs, opinions, and behaviors.
Campaign analytics uses voter data to inform campaign strategies and help achieve electoral success. In the past, the use of campaign analytics was limited to compiling a list of voters to call, or determining which houses volunteers should canvass. In today’s digital era, however, campaign analytics has grown in breadth and potential value, and has become a critical component of developing and running an effective political campaign.
Thanks to the advent of inexpensive cloud servers, new political software systems now come complete with extensive databases that are designed to be easily searched using any number of factors. Campaign managers can pinpoint eligible voters who are likely to support their candidate, or issue and direct communications toward this demographic to yield a more efficient and fruitful outreach program.
Campaign analytics can also help inform overall strategy. For example, it can look at voter data to understand which issues are most important to voters. This takes much of the guesswork out of politics, enabling campaign managers and other political communication professionals to produce effective messaging that targets their key demographic and helps convince undecided voters to cast their ballot.
Historically, campaign analytics were outsourced to consultant groups. This is because most political professionals lacked the tools and acumen to use data to make insightful predictions about voter behavior. The rapid progress of software technology coupled with inexpensive cloud servers has changed this, making it possible for political organizations to forego expensive consultants and move campaign analytics in-house.
The 2008 Obama campaign is often cited as the first campaign to effectively dedicate internal staff to analytics and harness the power of information on a massive scale. At that time, the Obama campaign had to gather much of its own data and construct new systems to recognize patterns and predict voter behavior. Now, specialized political software programs come preloaded with vast databases of voter information that can be filtered, searched, and sorted based on campaign-specific criteria. These programs give political organizations and campaigns the ability to analyze data internally, helping reduce costs and save valuable time.
Political organizations utilize data analytics in a number of ways to gain insights that lead to a more strategic and effective campaign. Some strategies use data to ensure that key voter concerns are addressed. Others use dynamic data to refine messaging and target outreach toward essential voters who can help advance a campaign.
By using basic voter information combined with social and consumer data, campaigns and political professionals can generate scores that rate an individual’s likelihood of backing or opposing certain issues. These scores help political organizations focus their energy and reach out to those most likely to lend campaign support.
Microtargeting is the act of tracking voter habits to categorize voters into specific groups based on their political tendencies. Campaign messaging can then be personalized for each group before it is disseminated through various channels. This method of customizing messaging has been shown to greatly increase the effectiveness of outreach.
Understanding voter demographics gives political organizations and campaigns a head start in determining which issues are important within different geographic regions. Armed with that knowledge, political professionals can design campaigns around topics that are shown to be important to particular communities and demographics.
In close races, a small percent of voters can determine the outcome of an election. Data analytics can help find undecided voters and give campaigns the opportunity to focus their outreach on these vital votes.
Between TV, social media and the internet, there’s no shortage of options when it comes to advertising. This means it’s never been more crucial to understand which communication channels offer the best return on investment. Data analytics plays a critical role in helping political organizations and campaigns understand which platforms most successfully reach their target demographic and get the most mileage out of their ads.
Using campaign analytics isn’t just smart, it’s efficient and effective. Consider how much time is saved by identifying citizens who are likely to support a cause or campaign, and bypassing those who are unlikely to lend their endorsement. By reaching out to these pre-selected voters, canvassers and volunteers save time, resources, and achieve higher success rates. Using targeted communication also increases voter interest, as messaging is tailored to speak to voters’ specific concerns.
As life increasingly moves to the digital space, the amount of voter data will continue to grow and may even someday outgrow our ability to capture it. Campaign analytics is expanding right alongside this flood of data and will continue to become increasingly important in future campaigns and elections.
All political professionals—from elected politicians to speechwriters to campaign managers—will need to know how to make use of this vital resource. They will need to master both the power and the nuances of modern campaign analytics.
For those who wish to pursue careers in areas of politics, especially in today’s digital world, gaining the proper education is critical. The LSU Online Bachelor’s in Mass Communication – Political Communication is specifically designed to prepare students for successful futures in politics. Learn more about the program today.
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Policy Review, “Data-Driven Political Campaigns in Practice: Understanding and Regulating Diverse Data-Driven Campaigns”
CBS News, “How Campaigns Use Big Data Tools To Micro-Target Voters”
InfoWorld, “Data Science and Cloud Computing Win Most Political Campaigns”
The Conversation, “Data-driven Elections and the Key Questions About Voter Surveillance”
Quartz, “Political Campaigns Use Personal Data to Decode Voter’s Opinions”
CNET, “Mid-Term Elections: How Politicians Know Exactly How You’re Going to Vote”
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