Will Data-Crunching Give Obama an Edge?

By Valerie Ross | October 12, 2011 2:10 pm

As the 2012 presidential race ramps up, campaigns are courting voters not only at the traditional county fairs and town hall meetings, but online—and generating, in the process, an enormous amount of data about who potential voters are and what they want. At CNN.com, Micah Sifry—an expert on the intersection of technology and politics—delves in the Obama team’s extensive efforts to mine and manage the data in a way that could help them better interact with voters and home in on important issues. He writes:

Inside the Obama operation, his staff members are using a powerful social networking tool called NationalField, which enables everyone to share what they are working on. Modeled on Facebook, the tool connects all levels of staff to the information they are gathering as they work on tasks like signing up volunteers, knocking on doors, identifying likely voters and dealing with problems. Managers can set goals for field organizers — number of calls made, number of doors knocked—and see, in real time, how people are doing against all kinds of metrics.

No Republican candidates, however, seem to have similar systems in place to help them manage and use this data. Republican technology consultant Mark Avila spoke to Sifry of the Republican presidential hopefuls:

“They have to stop seeing a website as a piece of direct mail that people will receive,” he said. “They have to see a website as the equivalent of a campaign office in Iowa, one that is open 24/7.” And campaigns need to know how to take quick and well-targeted action to respond to every expression of interest they may get online, he argues, because voter interest in politicians is fickle. Simply sending a generic e-mail reply isn’t enough.

“If you can make that initial response a phone call from someone in their town or a neighbor, asking them to come to a county fair tomorrow, that’s much more powerful.”

Read the rest at CNN.

Photo courtesy of the White House / Flickr

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Physics & Math, Technology
  • s.crew

    The lack of civilized thinking is one of the major problems in society, and I can see why the Democrats would want to appeal more to that capacity. But this has a lot to do with what I would call “preaching to your own parish” (I’m not a native speaker of english, sorry).

    It still leaves masses of ignorant voters with their mob-powerpolitics in the drivingseat.
    Crunching numbers may be a nice academic approach, it still does not win voters over.

    GOP-members/voters are bigots, on the whole, and I can’t see Obama/Democrats make any headway in for instance deminishing unfounded fears towards Democrats politics.

    What the Democrats have been lacking, for decades as far as I am concerned, is coördinated media-play, like the GOP do with that sickening Fox News, Tea Partymorons etc.

    I am not naïeve, I’ve never believed that the Republicans were willing to give Obama even the slightest break. So much for: “Yes, we can”, huh?

    Mr. Obama has even stooped to the same level as Rowe/Cheney/Bush: Guantanamo (still open for business), medical care (flunked), financial “crises” , the list goes on and on…
    He thinks that by showing tough love and hunting down/killing terrorists his “heart for the just cause” is somehow appreciated by the merkin right-wingers. Yeah right, dream on son.

    Now don’t get me wrong: I would LOVE to see Obama do well, and for the GOP to get their ass kicked for quite some time to come, but sadly I just can not see it happening.

    Democrats or Republicans: crunching numbers won’t cut it, to my mind most western societies are up for some basic re-thinking about themselves. And that message is one I hear nowhere, not in my country, the Netherlands, either.

    Datacrunching is what I would call a pasttime for intelligent people, intellectuals .
    They are not the people that need convincing. Go for the new voters, new Americans, get a vision across, set goals and tell them the truth: the days of US domination are over, gone.
    It will no longer be possible to force befriended nations, like Bush did, into solidarity.
    The famous “If you are not with us, you are against us”-doctrin clearly has backfired on the US.

    Now there is something the Democrats and Obama should pounce on. The moral authority of the US (if ever present) is out the window and the damage to the US irreversible.

    I just can’t get my head around the fact that the Democratic Party, with all its media and entertainmentspecialists, moguls and guru’s got beaten on their own turf by people like Karl Rowe, who spent years working on a strategy.
    It is exactly what caused the downfall of Dutch social-democrats, they got complacent with their ïntellectual so-called superiority. And had their ass kicked.

  • Cathy

    S. crew has a point: the Dems have had a critical messaging problem over the last few years. But the problem is not one that metrics or data crunching or superior websites are going to solve. The problem is that the US media, so afraid of the stigma of “liberal bias” has taken to reporting both sides of an issue as equally plausible even when one side is completely implausible or outright extremist. And when a pundit (or these days, a comedian) comes out and calls the extremist side on their BS, they are once again accused of being biased communist socialist (Godwin’s Law Reference) hippies. No amount of data crunching is going to fix the media messaging problem.

  • Al Bedo

    Republicants are whisky, cigars, churches, and guns. Democraps are cocaine, reefers, brothels, and taxes. God is a Republicant, Santa Clause is a Democrap. Nobody for President in 2012.

    Vote for Fascist Libertarians – minimal government, then good and hard.

  • Brian Too

    What the social media tools mentioned in the OP do is to connect with the party faithful and voters on the fence. Ideally they could also allow a reach into the other side’s supporters, but in today’s world that seems a faint hope.

    So the message is really about motivating your own supporters. There are sufficient numbers of disengaged potential voters that this is a very appealing option. If you can increase your side’s voter turnout from 40 to 60 percent, that is huge (so long as the opposition cannot match that performance).

  • sean

    Obama team’s extensive efforts to mine and manage the data

    If Obama would just embrace pro-growth economic policies instead of bitterly clinging to his anti-growth policies he wouldn’t have to go though all the time and effort to mine and manage the data.

  • tonto

    Sean, would you please detail the pro-growth policies of “Not-Obama” and/or the antigrowth policies of Obama? I’m not sure what you are saying…..

  • RaiseMoreHell

    @sean “embrace pro-growth economic policies”? Obama has embraced them. The GOP won’t let any be implemented, nor is growth really possible anymore as we run out of virtually free energy.

    s.crew has nailed the general problem, although it will take more than better Dem media policy. The Democratic shortcoming is not in transactional politics (winning the next election), it is in transformative politics (winning the hearts and minds of new and independent voters.) A few extra points in elections here and there would be nice, but it will not stem the tide of the GOP’s forty-year focus on transformational politics.

    The party that solves our economic crisis (it will NOT be the GOP or the libertards, it might not be the Democrats, it might be some new party) will do so from the bottom up through organizing, not top down through data mining. It is not preordained that we will solve our economic crisis in a positive way. The GOP may yet bring us to a theocratic fascism.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

80beats

80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »