Can Big Data Swing Elections?

Big Data is everywhere. We were recently at the Strata Hadoop World conference and were blown away by some of the use cases in industries you wouldn’t normally categorize as being data driven. More and more leaders are seeking out data scientists to massage, splice, and contort data to spill out useful, actionable insights they can use as a competitive advantage.

In the last few years, with the access to bigger and richer data sets, we’ve moved from an era where data itself was a competitive advantage to the point where data analytics is the new battleground. What you can do with the data matters much more that how much data you have in the data center.

One area that has risen sharply in its use of big data applications is the study of human behavior and emotions, driven largely by the CMO’s vision to create a 360 degree view of each customer using a multitude of data sources. There are many reports that suggest that in the future the CMO might be the biggest IT buyer in the enterprise given the focus on big data.

A direct consequence of the customer 360 initiative is its application to understanding and predicting human behavior in other realms, such as politics.

Photo courtesy of Jamelah E. of Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamelah/)
Photo courtesy of Jamelah E. of Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamelah/)

There are two extremely critical tactical decisions that could break or make a campaign:

  1. Whom should I speak to? Where do they live? How should I route the campaign bus?
  2. What should I say to them? How can I tailor my message to make the most impact? What are their day to day challenges that will help me relate to them at a personal level?

There is much research on the subject (such as this paper by David Nickerson and Todd Rogers in the Journal of Economic Perspectives about how modern, big-data driven campaigns are sourcing their data) which suggests that both those questions can be now answered through big data with great precision. The Wall Street Journal also ran an article on how parties are slicing data to optimize funding and focus (account required to view). And you can hear from Amanda Cox at The New York Times (skip to 22:00) on how data visualizations can unearth demographic insights useful to politicians that are hard to see using traditional tools.

Check out some of our other coverage of big data uses and news from Strata Hadoop World.

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