Political campaigns combining big data, ground games

Close elections mean both political parties are combining ground games and big data to try to eke out victories:

Workers like Ms. Wellington and Mr. Noble are, in the end, critical to any ground campaign, no matter how sophisticated data collection and targeting models are, said Sasha Issenberg, author of “The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns.”

“The great irony of the modern ground game is it’s this meeting of incredibly modern analytics and data married to very old-fashioned delivery devices,” he said. “It’s people knocking on doors; it’s people making phone calls out of phone banks; but the calculations that are determining which door and which phone are different.”…

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ramped up its commitment, creating the “Bannock Street project,” a multimillion dollar, data-driven effort to persuade, register and turn out voters.

“The easiest way to look at it is our strategy to winning is expanding the voting universe,” said Preston Elliott, Hagan’s campaign manager, in an interview in his Greensboro office. “It’s a little more machineish than just catching a wave and riding momentum.”

Republicans say they are catching up. In Raleigh, campaign workers and volunteers showed off a new smartphone app that helps canvassers target their door knocks. But Republican officials refused to reveal volunteer numbers, paid staff totals, field office locations or a tabulation of voter contacts. Nor would they allow reporters to recount the phone-bank pitch, “the secret sauce,” as they called it.

This is taking new information about voters – something political parties always want – and putting it into real-time (or close) models in order to produce more effective targeted efforts with limited time and efforts before elections.

Two other thoughts:

1. It would be interesting to then see how these new efforts fit with broad appeals politicians make to the public. Does this new kind of information and targeting mean that politicians will spend less time making big claims and instead focus on smaller segments of voters?

2. Americans aren’t always thrilled with the kind of information corporations or tech companies have about them. Are they happy with political parties having more information? Of course, people don’t have to give out this information but this information is going into the hands of political parties who don’t exactly have the highest ratings these days.

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