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Politics Technology

The Data Crunchers Who Helped Win The Election 208

Posted by Soulskill
from the at-least-we-didn't-ask-the-bynars dept.
concealment sends in a story at Time that goes behind the scenes with the team of data crunchers that powered many of the Obama campaign's decisions in the lead-up to the election. From the article: "For all the praise Obama's team won in 2008 for its high-tech wizardry, its success masked a huge weakness: too many databases. Back then, volunteers making phone calls through the Obama website were working off lists that differed from the lists used by callers in the campaign office. Get-out-the-vote lists were never reconciled with fundraising lists. It was like the FBI and the CIA before 9/11: the two camps never shared data. ... So over the first 18 months, the campaign started over, creating a single massive system that could merge the information collected from pollsters, fundraisers, field workers and consumer databases as well as social-media and mobile contacts with the main Democratic voter files in the swing states. The new megafile didn't just tell the campaign how to find voters and get their attention; it also allowed the number crunchers to run tests predicting which types of people would be persuaded by certain kinds of appeals. Call lists in field offices, for instance, didn't just list names and numbers; they also ranked names in order of their persuadability, with the campaign's most important priorities first. About 75% of the determining factors were basics like age, sex, race, neighborhood and voting record. Consumer data about voters helped round out the picture. 'We could [predict] people who were going to give online. We could model people who were going to give through mail. We could model volunteers,' said one of the senior advisers about the predictive profiles built by the data. 'In the end, modeling became something way bigger for us in '12 than in '08 because it made our time more efficient.'"
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The Data Crunchers Who Helped Win The Election

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  • Ummm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nexion (1064) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @06:29PM (#41912745)

    creepy.

  • by swb (14022) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @06:46PM (#41912921)

    ....that candidates are winning elections via data mining versus appealing to people with ideas?

    It seems like Wall Street's version of capitalism -- just focus on the numbers, not on making a newer widget, and we can manipulate our way to victory.

    I know, you can make the argument that sending the right message to the people receptive that message will get you money, votes, whatever, but at the same time it seems cynical and manipulative. It doesn't seem like it's about developing leadership ideas that appeal to people generally and winning them over with charisma and the strength of your arguments.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @06:46PM (#41912939)

    It simply makes me sigh and wonder again when The American People[tm] will come to its senses and get themselves a voting system that's less paralysable by a mere two parties and effectively disenfranchises just a hair short of half the voters.

    But since the message of the founding fathers has been lost in the process of elevating them to sainthood (or rather, by commercialising their vague memory), the answer is probably "never".

    Which makes the claims of this country being a democracy (or a republic, or both), all the more bitter.

  • by Mitreya (579078) <mitreya@gmail . c om> on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @06:49PM (#41912969)

    Plus he seemed to have lost a huge amount of the support he had in 2008.

    Maybe that's because he had done a 180 degree turn on most of his promises? The ones that got that huge amount of support in 2008? Campaigning on "change and hope" was no longer possible, since we now have 4 years of actual record.

    a win is a win... but looking at it objectively a sigh of relief is more appropriate than a cry of victory.

    Republicans had a chance, but they needed a stronger candidate. Why is it so hard to find one strong candidate? I mean, look at who Romney was competing against at the end -- Gingrich, McCain, Santorum...

  • by jhoegl (638955) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @06:59PM (#41913071)
    First off, Obama did what he could with a Republican party that wanted nothing more than for him to lose his second term. Dont believe me? They even said this.
    Secondly, the Republican party is full of nut jobs and puppets. The last few candidates that the Republicans presented were such big shills (including Bush), that you could clearly see the strings that were being pulled to make them talk.
    Third, stop lying to make the Republican party look good. We have something now called the internet, and despite the large amount of false data out there, the real data (and recordings) remain.
    Finally, Stop taking the USA citizens for rubes. We are smart, educated, and intelligent, something the Republican Party has feared for years. We believe that even though people can and given the chance, will pull up their bootstraps, sometimes they need help to get started. Not everyone has an extended family, a rich uncle, or someone who knows the right people to get us started. Society is not socialism, it is caring about your neighbors and helping out. THis includes neighbors I dont know and will never meet. I sanction my government to help those that need help, and try its best to find those that would work this to their own personal benefit.

    Adapt or die, as some of your party members might say.
  • by desdinova 216 (2000908) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @07:02PM (#41913091)
    part of the problem is that the Republican party is being held hostage by a small fringe who want to put in place a theocracy.
  • by superdave80 (1226592) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @07:06PM (#41913137)

    It sounds like the Democrats have put a lot of effort into understanding their electorate.

    They put a lot of effort into knowing what the electorate wants to hear. Once in office, they could give a crap what the electorate thinks.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @07:08PM (#41913153)

    Only squeaked by? Are you serious?

    Surely you weren't persuaded by the media hype about how close the race is. It has never been close. Obama has had a huge advantage in the electoral college from the get-go. And the Romney campaign never had the ground organization in the battleground states that would be required to be a serious contender.

    In fact, it almost looks like the Republicans threw the race on purpose. Romney is not the kind of candidate who would have a great chance of beating Obama in this climate--he epitomizes everything that people dislike about the Republican party, and plays into the Democrat characterization of the GOP as the party for the rich, by the rich.

    In fact, there hasn't really been a strong candidate put up against an incumbent President since Reagan beat Carter. Clinton was not expected to win--but Perot's entering the race spoiled expectations.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @07:13PM (#41913247)

    Because there are few rational members of that party left. The Republican party caters to the extreme right, just watch the primaries, it was a contest of who is the craziest. The Republican party is dead and it time for a third party to emerge.

  • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @07:15PM (#41913261) Homepage

    What's wrong with data mining? It's effectively the same job that campaign managers have been doing for decades (or more), but now more accurately. In the 1800s, a candidate could campaign on a platform of what he thought the voters wanted to hear. Now, candidates can know the views of their constituents, and make plans and promises based on more accurate information.

    Now, I'm not naive enough to think that all those promises will be kept, but it does bode well that the elected officials have a pretty accurate model of their constituents, should they actually decide to refer to it.

  • by mpeskett (1221084) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @07:17PM (#41913291)

    Important distinction - "A party that wanted for him to lose" vs "A party that wanted nothing more than for him to lose".

    When "make sure the other guy loses" is the over-riding objective, above any other goal, you stop doing things that would make sense if you wanted to get anything done, because getting things done might make the other guy look good. You stop doing things that would make sense to advance your own (original) agenda, where it overlaps with the other guy, because agreeing with the other guy makes him look good and might allow him to achieve something.

    It turns everything into a game of tribal warfare - no compromise, no co-operation, just blind hate and contrarian obstruction. Being anything so long as it puts the other guy down or makes his life difficult. That's pretty much the impression I get of a good chunk of the republican party for the last 4 years, and thankfully it hasn't proved to be a winning strategy. If all you had to do to win an election was to block everything the incumbent tries to do (then lambast him for never doing anything), then the USA would be stuck fruitlessly spinning its gears forever.

    Maybe now that's been shown to be a dud they'll start working for the common good of the people being governed, rather than treating ideas (and laws) as soldiers in an imaginary war. Maybe. That is perhaps optimistic though; equally likely they double down on the obstructionist crap, especially given how much the far right has supplanted the centre right.

  • by medv4380 (1604309) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @07:19PM (#41913313)
    One of their callers let it slip what my "ranking" was. For some reason they think I'm a strong democrat. I'm not sure what they think that means because if the Republicans would ever get their act together and field a Strong Moderate Republican like Powell then I'd vote Republican. Instead they've taken the last decade purging out moderates and acting crazy. Someone failed to consolidate those database though. If they had done it right then they would know they called my home phone, and cell phone. You only have to confirm that I'm voting once, maybe twice. After that I ether am voting or I've been Joshing you. But no, I got about 13 calls from them. Each campaign needs to share data so I don't get inundated by the local legislature, house and presidential campaign. I can't imagine what actual battle ground states actually got since I'm in an area where the winner could have been called a year before the election.
  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @07:22PM (#41913357) Homepage Journal

    Obonga is gonna bankrupt this nation and let the mud races defile white women as your slavery reparations payment, too. Now that he has now political accountability you will see his true colors shine through.

    Well, if the alternative is having the nation led by the people a bigoted simpleton like yourself would vote for, I'd say we came out ahead.

  • by Joe Decker (3806) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @10:21PM (#41914933) Homepage

    "small fringe" is sadly not, to my mind, a plausible interpretation of the evidence

    When you look at many votes on questions touched on by the theocrats, it's pretty clear that they enjoy substantial support from large segments and often majorities of the GOP electorate.

    I'm very sorry that the somewhat more sensible Republican party of the past is no longer with us. But that's the case, and it's time for people who supported a more sensible GOP to either figure out a way of more effectively persuading people to your view (because the theocrats are winning that war, despite last night's results), or, alternatively, get themselves a more sensible party of their own.

  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Thursday November 08, 2012 @01:21AM (#41915755) Homepage

    I kind of prefer the refreshing taste of straight-up racism. Much more honest than the veiled and coded kind that every GOP voter (apart from the ones like you) subscribes to.

  • by dunezone (899268) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @02:39AM (#41916033) Journal

    I have the EXACT same experience. They were floored when I asked them whether their next presidential candidate had different view on redefining torture and if not, I was voting for Obama. The phone literally got so silent I could hear other conversations in the background clearly.

    Listed as a Republican so they call me as well. The last time they called the individual on the other side of the phone immediately jumped into a speech about appealing Obama Care. Never asked my opinion or anything just immediately assumed I was against it because I was registered as a Republican. It became very awkward for him when I started talking about how I liked some of the provisions within the bill and that I would rather see improvements instead of a full appeal of the bill.

    Unless the Republican party starts to accept that certain social/political/economic norms are changing they will continue to bleed voters.

  • Re:Ummm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hairyfish (1653411) on Thursday November 08, 2012 @05:25AM (#41916639)

    Well, Obama certainly hasn't gotten "what the people want" very right.

    Well, depends on which people you are talking about. For most of the other 6.7 billion people who don't live in the US, he got it right. As a member of the free world in which the POTUS claims leadership of, I want a leader who at least sounds like he finished high school. For some reason the Republicans don't seem to have too many of those.

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