The election is over, and the team clothed in Blue won, and the margin was large. After such a contentious election cycle I’m sure all would agree -no more. The question that I raised in my last post on the eve of the election was “Will Nate Silver be a god or a goat?” Well we now know that he was spot on in his predictions for the outcome of the election with Obama winning nearly all of the contested states.
How did Nate Silver call the outcome? He did it by an algorithmic review of all polls (he does not conduct any polls of his own) weights the averages, and then forecasts the likelihood of winning the electoral votes in a given state. No punditry, shear match, some science, and enough sense to lower the values of what were the outlier polls like Gallup and Rasmussen that did not fit the general results of the other polls. Viola, we have a whole new way to pick the winner.
So, what happened to the Republicans, who were still forecasting victory right up to the last minute which gave us some memorable moments when Karl Rove had a meltdown on Fox, and Mitt Romney had to write a last minute speech that no one thought he would need since it was obvious to them that he was going to win…ouchers.
So this election came down to a couple of very big things – Big Money and Big Data. On the Big Data side the Democrats used all of the data tricks learned in the ‘08 election, and then brought in a number of new wrinkles. They built a large team in Chicago to manage the data, armies of staff and volunteers to use the data to blanket the targets with multiples of messages. No stone was unturned in reaching and motivating their target audiences. They had a mission and it was about turnout, and they did it, surpassing their efforts of 2008. I expect now that major elections in the future would be based on these efforts.
On the losing side, the focus had been on Big Money, mainly big donors who gave directly to the party, and to the Super Pacs. The Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson were the big whales contributing an estimated 250 million between the two. These efforts were supposed to be all that was needed to blanket the airwaves with TV buys that would sway the election in their direction. In the past this has done it, and more money was spent – over a billion dollars in this heroic effort to carry the day.
The funny thing is that the Obama team also raised huge dollars – they also hit the billion-dollar mark, much by large donations, but a huge portion came from donations, mostly over the Internet. Their strategy was to go after small sums from a large pool, and then to hit them again and again. They test all kinds of messaging, and guess what, nearly all of the messaging worked – and the donations flowed. The public was really in the dark on the effectiveness of this effort until well after the election – certainly the Republicans were in the dark based on their surprised look at the end of the contest.
I’m not here today to talk politics – my interest lies in the technology and the application of the technology. I have friends, who are political consultants, and “I forgive them for that, they know not what they do.” My interest is in understanding how we best influence decisions, mainly commercial or business decisions through communications. Would the brute force application of traditional print and broadcast media work in todays world – certainly one side thought that it would. They were experts in direct mail fundraising with golden lists that delivered the manna in each election cycle. On the other side, with a new digital toolbox that worked last time, could it keep up with the promise of a sea of paid media that would not end? Could they do it again since the other side knew how they were going to proceed?
They did it again…and in my next post I will go into more detail on just how they did it and what this all means to us in our business practices. Big Data and the Digital World are real and anyone who does not utilize these tools in whole or in part will probably not make it until the next election cycle. More on Monday!