Big Data Could Sway The Presidential Election

As we head into the heat of the 2016 Presidential Campaign, the rhetoric will surely increase, but the outcome may ride on the backs of the mathematicians, statisticians, data scientists and computer scientists who will work to collect, churn and convey information to their respective campaigns in order to give their candidate an edge. A number of companies that specialize in analytics will be working tirelessly with data to find voters that can carry the day.

The data collection and techniques used will be unlike anything we have seen before

Undoubtedly, data will help campaigns identify and target voters in ways unseen in previous elections. For example, candidates will be able to have a series of unique scripts available in near real-time as cold callers make their introductions. Through social media, campaigns will monitor all major social media platforms to identify their likes, comments and connections. Using Social Network Analysis, it is possible for campaigns to monitor twitter feeds and see who follows the tweets and retweets them to their followers. This information can then be used to identify key influencers in a network.

Using text mining, comments of potential voters on social media and blogs can be mined and analyzed to determine trending topics and voters preferences. This information provides critical information to campaigns because the information pulled is considered very rich data and can provide great insight into the minds of voters.

There are over 2 billion users of social media, and the information gathered from these platforms represents a very small amount of the information being collected. Campaigns are spending tens of millions of dollars to target voters and give them an edge in microareas of districts. The Washington Post recently reported that Ted Cruz (R) has credited analytics for its recent rise in the polls, and other campaigns with large analytics groups are finding the same results.

The campaigns are so protective of their data that any breach causes great concern for the campaigns. The recent alleged data breach by the Sanders (D) campaign caused the Clinton (D) campaign to cry foul. Whether the incident was as severe or not is almost irrelevant, because it shows not only the length campaigns will go to protect its data, but also how vital they perceive this data is to their outcomes.

As the campaigns progress, the battle may be waged by the grassroots volunteers seeking to get voters to vote for their candidate, or even by big money trying to convince the masses through a large campaigns. However, the campaign could be won in the small rooms where data is collected and analyzed by data scientists. Their analysis and their capabilities could sway the election.

Alexander Pelaez, Ph.D., is a President of Five Element Analytics, an analytics consulting firm. He has served as a senior executive to a number of firms in healthcare, retail and media. He is also a professor of Information Systems and Business Analytics at Hofstra University.