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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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  • Very interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wcrowe (94389) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @06:36PM (#41912829)

    I don't get involved in politics these days, but I'm still registered as a Republican. As a consequence, I still get political calls and mail from time to time. The one thing I've noticed about how the GOP operates is that they make a lot of assumptions about what I think on various issues. It's like they cannot fathom that I might look at things a little bit differently than the party line. After reading this article, it makes me wonder if the GOP is out of touch with other voters who lean to the right.

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

  • Re:Very interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PRMan (959735) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @06:47PM (#41912947)
    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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @07:10PM (#41913173)

    ...moving us closer and closer to psychohistory.

    Nate Silver (or other predictors) might be be doing so

    This data analysis is the exact opposite of psychohistory.

    First, it was specifically aimed at groups of people and could not predict actions of an individual. The campaign mining is actually about doing by-individual analysis to see what kind of plea/solicitation they may respond to best.

    Second, the population should remain ignorant of the application of psychohistory rules or they may be affected by such knowledge. And we clearly know about the data mining

    So interesting, yes -- but we may be waiting for psychohistory for a while. Unless, of course, the Seldon plan is already in motion and we are under the control of second found... $^@%#$@!#$ NO CARRIER

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @07:33PM (#41913471) Homepage Journal

    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

    That's why they used fishing line when they built Obama.

    FYI, I'm one of those people who voted for the O in 2008 but not this year, and my decision had fuck-all to do with what Republicans do or say.

    I chose to vote against Obama because of NDAA, "Disposition Matrix's," Gitmo's continued existence, P.A.T.R.I.O.T II, CISPA (so much for that veto promise), expanded drone strikes, etc., etc., etc.

    Put simply, I voted against Obama because the last thing I wanted was another 4 years of Bush.

    Que sera, sera.

  • Re:Ummm... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jstlook (1193309) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @07:42PM (#41913561)
    Again, I'm going to reiterate my point. I don't care if they spend a billion dollars on a campaign (I prefer my privacy, thanks) on one condition:
    Use your datamining to actually get government right. Figure out what everybody wants, and find a solution. If you're going to "run 66,000 campaign predictions a night", how many can you run that analyze the effects of your policies, actions, and decisions.
    Cause honestly, it looks to me like government has gotten really good at screwing things up. I'd hate to lose my faith in humanity before I'm dead.
  • Re:Very interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dgatwood (11270) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @08:05PM (#41913767) Journal

    The rank and file Catholics can’t even agree on the abortion issue.

    It's not that Catholics don't mostly agree that abortion is bad. It's that Catholics tend to be a lot more pragmatic as a group than their clergy would perhaps like. There are three factors here:

    • Catholics don't universally agree on whether it should be illegal—that is, whether their moral objection to it outweighs the need for a clear separation of church and state—whether they have the right to push what is essentially a religious belief on those who do not share that belief.
    • A sizable percentage of American Catholics realize that making it completely illegal has the potential to actually cost lives in some medical cases. That certainly isn't something that the Church as an institution will likely ever accept, but it is a reality that most American Catholics will concede. If your choice truly is whether to abort a fetus (or administer medical treatment that has the potential to kill the fetus) or let two people inevitably die, even most people who are against abortion in general have a hard time stomaching the latter.
    • Most Catholics recognize that there are more important issues that are more likely to actually have a real impact on the world. Roe v. Wade is a wedge that Republicans use to try to get votes, but in reality, they almost never actually do anything to try to change it.

    That last one is crucial to understanding Catholic voters. The abortion debate is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing—all talk, no action. As long as that remains the case, it makes sense to evaluate the candidates based on issues that they might realistically act upon—health care, civil rights, care for the poor, etc.

  • by jd.schmidt (919212) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @08:52PM (#41914247)

    Sadly, the short term problem is that obstructionism will at least appear to work in the next 2 years. 2 years from now, the voters who were willing to wait 4 - 6 hours in line to vote for Obama won't be willing to stick it out for a midterm. And one guess on the social groups that had to wait 4 hours to vote. The Democrats will lose many of their gains in the last election and the hardline (Tea Party) Republicans will conclude that their no surrender tactics are working and further that the reason they lost 2012 is because the party selected a wishy-washy conservative in Romney.

    I am sad to say my prediction is very minimal compromise in the short term and further purges of moderates, especially moderate Republicans, for the next 4 years. Eventually the Republicans will have to change course, they just can’t/won’t that soon.

    Buckle up, we are in for a bumpy ride.

  • by TapeCutter (624760) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @08:56PM (#41914285) Journal
    That's pretty twisted logic you have going there (or possibly an unorthodox definition of "disenfranchised"), taken to it's logical conclusion the only vote that counts is the single ballot that gets someone over the line. Truth is all the votes counted, the Rommney total was simply insufficient and the Obama total was more than required. US domestic politics has ( in my lifetime) always been highly polarised, which is kind of odd given the diverse sub-cultures found in the different states/regions, simply tweeking the election rules isn't going to change that cultural paradox.
  • by TapeCutter (624760) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @09:36PM (#41914617) Journal

    Stop taking the USA citizens for rubes. We are smart, educated, and intelligent, something the Republican Party has feared for years.

    Well said, I agree with Christopher Hicthens who thought putting Palin up for VP was a genuine insult to intelligence of "the people". Isn't the conservative side of politics supposed to shun shallow air-heads? Are they not supposed to hang on to established institutions rather than openly call for their abolishment? Was Nixon a commie because he didn't veto the clean air act? Was reagan a wetermellon becuse he pushed for and obtained an international cap and trade treaty for sulphur emissions which has been credited with significantly reducing the threat from acid rain?

    Having grown up in the 60-70's the Tea Party's sucessful hijacking of the conservative brand name has left me speechless, how border line support for anarchy and a total disregard for well-established facts could be interpreted as 'conservative' is beyond me? Go back pre-911 and have a look at the senior republicans, where are the moderate right wingers in today's line up? - Oh wait....I think I get it now.....you guys just elected a moderate conservative as president, well done! ;)

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