Big data isn’t just for businesses. We’ve already seen big data analytics being used in areas such as healthcare and weather forecasts. Even sports teams have jumped on board the bandwagon.
So perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that politics has gotten into the big data game. More specifically, political campaigns are starting to use big data with the goal of winning on Election Day. As anyone even somewhat familiar with politics knows, trying to guess election outcomes can be a tricky business, but big data gives campaigns more tools and information than ever before. With Election Day not that far away and the presidential campaigns already gearing up, big data may play a pivotal role in who the next President of the United States will be.
There’s already precedent for big data’s use in presidential campaigns. Perhaps most notably, Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential run featured extensive use of big data analytics. That campaign was the first of its kind, at least at that level, to use analytics to help identify likely voters and get them out to the polls in early November.
While there are certainly many factors leading to Obama’s eventual win that year, big data was definitely influential. His opponent, John McCain, didn’t use analytics in any meaningful way, and the result was a decisive victory for Obama. Move head four years to the 2012 president election, and the Obama re-election campaign once again utilized big data analytics. Mitt Romney would also employ analytics services, but that operation was still well behind the sitting president’s efforts, leading to another effective campaign for President Obama. In two straight national elections, the lesson had been learned: use big data or run at a significant disadvantage.
So what lies ahead for this year’s presidential campaigns? That might be a little hard to predict. As evidenced by the chaos surrounding both parties’ primaries, it’s difficult to say exactly what both the Clinton and Trump campaigns will do.
However, it’s definitely clear what they should be doing. If anything, big data allows political campaigns to be run even more like businesses. Many companies use big data to better understand their customers, figuring out how they make their decisions and what are the best ways to reach them. It isn’t any stretch to apply this approach to politics. After all, voters are a lot like customers in that they’re looking for a campaign to support. If that campaign can reach them in such a way to convince them to cast a vote in their favor, then that would be mission accomplished.
That’s exactly how big data can and will be used. Through the analytics approach, campaigns can gather a vast amount of information about individuals, items like voter history, religious beliefs, family status, and more. These voter profiles are nothing new, but with big data they can be more detailed than ever before. They can even include information like favorite movies and TV shows or most frequented restaurants.
With all that data, campaigns can craft tailored messages for individuals, increasing the chances they’ll come out and vote for a specific candidate. Big data helps campaigns find those voters who need that extra little push to get to their polling place, or they can identify swing voters who might be persuaded to supporting one candidate with emphasis on a particular issue.
This data can be gathered from a variety of sources. One of the more fruitful is what people post on their social media accounts. Through social listening and other analytics technologies, campaigns can find out more about each voter. This information contributes to an overall picture that becomes continually clearer over time. Now campaigns have a concrete understanding of who to go after, where to place their most valuable resources, and how to manage their time wisely.
The overall impact of big data on presidential campaigns will be, in theory, a smarter run campaign that more effectively reaches out to voters with a clearly defined message. As campaigns get on board with big data analytics, cloud technologies, and converged infrastructure vendors, they’ll have the opportunity to better define themselves and set the message.
We’re rapidly entering a new age of politics, one that will be hugely influential on the next president.