- Obama takes aim at ‘corporate deserters’
- Dick’s Sporting Goods lays off 478 PGA golf pros
- Senators: Cease-fire must allow Israel to defend against rockets, tunnels
- Sierra Leone doctor fighting Ebola catches disease
- Iraq welcomes Russian fighter jets, helicopter gunships into ISIL fight
- John McCain laments: Obama’s ‘self-pity … is really kind of sad’
- GOP offer to fix VA gives $10 billion in emergency funds
- Paul Ryan offers to repair U.S. economic safety net with a single grant stream
- Kim Jong-un builds bond with Putin: $250M Russia-backed addition to key port opens
- Pope Francis meets Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman sentenced to death
Politicians uncovering big benefits in ‘big data’
Parties use results to pinpoint constituents on specific issues
Question of the Day
The growing amount of data gathered from social media sites, vendors and data warehouses is providing new opportunities for political parties to reach constituents in a very personal way.
“Big data” — huge and hugely complex sets of information — has been an abundant source of marketing fodder for businesses trying to read the minds of consumers and understand what they most care about. The success of President Obama’s 2012 campaign was partly owed to its big data “dream team,” and now political parties at the state level are adopting related strategies.
David Ferguson, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party is forging ahead with new techniques, which include recording information about individual voters, such as whether they have a gun license or a boat permit and what magazines they subscribe to.
“The record-keeping side of big data helps build stronger relationships, and it helps politicians seem smarter than they are,” Mr. Ferguson said. “I think people appreciate that — people appreciate that extra mile.”
For instance, if a person belongs to the National Rifle Association, holds gun and hunting licenses and subscribes to a hunting magazine, then gun rights issues would be emphasized when reaching that person about a specific election or candidate. The analysis targets individuals and neighborhoods but also looks at broader demographics. Particularly in a blue state like Maryland, Republican grass-roots campaigning is key for shifting the political status quo, officials believe.
They focus on obtaining data on issues that resonate within particular neighborhoods. They can then urge residents to vote for their local candidates by highlighting candidates’ views on these issues. Party officials hope to begin with a local approach and then work more broadly to statewide issues and races.
“Instead of top-down, it’s bottom-up, and a rising tide lifts all boats,” Mr. Ferguson said.
Personal data can be obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, purchased from vendors or simply collected from public documents, such as real estate records.
Political organizations can consider wealth and propensity to donate before asking for money. This targeting might be directed toward individuals or groups. Mr. Ferguson said that after implementing data analytics, the Maryland Republican Party is $17,000 ahead of its fundraising schedule.
While the use of big data in politics is increasingly prevalent, it’s still a tool that some shy away from discussing.
The Republican Party of Virginia confirmed it has begun incorporating data analytics, but Executive Director Anthony Reedy said he did not “feel comfortable talking about it.”
State-level Democrats in Maryland and Virginia said they have used similar data-analysis tools but also declined to comment specifically on their methods.
Software developed by companies including Pennsylvania-based BehaviorMatrix extracts microdata from digital media ranging from Twitter to comment sections on news websites. BehaviorMatrix hires specialists in natural language processing and computational linguistics, fields of computer science that apply artificial intelligence to derive useful meaning and insights from the avalanche of online communication.
“In the new wave of digital politics, you can understand what the voters are really feeling about a particular candidate,” BehaviorMatrix Chairman and CEO Bill Thompson said.
Online activity can reveal what people like and think better than traditional methods, Mr. Thompson added. “Polls introduce bias. If you’re familiar with the organization presenting the poll, you may give it the answer you think it’s looking for,” he said.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
TWT Video Picks
By Michael Widlanski
Leveling the battlefield to aid terrorists enables evil to fight on
- 'We're coming for you, Barack Obama': Top U.S. official discloses threat from ISIL terrorists
- NAPOLITANO: What if our democracy is a fraud?
- Hamas rejects Kerry's call for cease-fire; Fears grow others could join fight against Israel
- Evidence shows Russia firing artillery into Ukraine: Pentagon
- Obama orders Pentagon advisers to Ukraine
- Obama's empty tough-talk: Gun prosecutions plummet on his watch
- SOWELL:Bordering on immigration madness
- CARSON: Costco and the perils of mixing politics and business
- Algerian plane diverted due to storms, second aircraft: 116 missing
- Presidents of Honduras, Guatemala blame U.S. for border children crisis
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq