I originally published this article in The Fiscal Times. The article relates to my book,Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die.
Obama Camp Reveals How They Scientifically Persuaded Millions of Voters
Elections hang by a thinner thread than you think.
By now you probably know that Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign for a second term “moneyballed” the election, employing a team of over 50 analytics experts.
You may also know that the huge volume of contentious and costly presidential campaign tactics – executed in the eleventh hour in pursuit of the world’s most powerful job – ultimately served only to sway a thin slice of the electorate: swing voters within swing states.
But what most people don’t realize is that presidential campaigns must focus even more narrowly than that, taking micro-targeting to a whole new level. The Obama campaign got this one right, breaking ground for election cycles to come by applying an advanced form of predictive analytics that pinpoints rare gems: truly persuadable voters.
This is the new microcosmic battleground.
We’ve heard a great deal about Nate Silver lately. Silver has soared past the ranks of sexy scientist to become the face of prediction itself. If mathematical “tomorrow vision” has a name, it’s Nate. Even before his forecasts were vindicated by the election results, it was hard to find a talk show host who hadn’t enjoyed a visit from Silver.
But an election poll does not constitute prognostic technology – it is plainly the act of voters explicitly telling you what they’re going to do. It’s a mini-election dry run. There’s a craft to aggregating polls, as Silver has mastered so adeptly, but even he admits it’s no miracle of clairvoyance. “It’s not really that complicated,” he told late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert the day before the election. “There are many things that are much more complicated than looking at the polls and taking an average . . . and counting to 270, right?”