Today, politicians are resorting to technology big time for reaching out to voters. It is not just about e-advertisements or social media campaign. In fact, it is much deeper than what we actually see. At the back-end lies Big Data analytics that help a candidate understand the voters better and design the election campaigns accordingly.
Avinash Iragavarapu, executive director, Arizona Republican Party, is doing it all for Donald Trump, the Republican Party nominee for the 2016 US presidential elections.
Here is an exclusive conversation with Avinash,in which he shared his success mantra for deploying technology during election and how tech is an important part of winning today.
How is data science used in election campaigning?
Simply put, data science brings more clarity and objectivity in election campaigning. It helps in taking well-informed and data-backed decisions.
Data science is used in every aspect – analysing issues that matter to the voters, segmenting the diverse voters into homogenous groups, identifying the homogenous groups that would most probably vote for the candidate, the methods to reach them based on their group, fund raising , voter outreach, voter turnout on the election day.
At every step, data science and technology can be used to run an efficient and cost-effective campaign.
Currently, in this 2016 campaign, we have data on every voter for up to 1,000 variables. We know the basic demographics like age, gender, their ethnicity and past voting record – we know how many times they voted in past elections. This will help us in not wasting money by reaching out to people who don’t vote.
Also, we have information about various other parameters like their magazine purchase, their online purchases, cars they drive, income level and their membership in any groups.
How are election campaigns incomplete/ineffective without the usage of data analytics?
We use Big Data analysis and psychographic profiling to better connect with people through messaging. We use OCEAN (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism) framework to segment voters for better advertising.
The number of traditional TV watchers has been decreasing- people watch on different screens now (Mobile, Tablet). Targeted advertising can happen by using Big Data analysis to suit voter personality and his mode of media exposure.
What are the tech processes you have learnt in the US elections that could be applied in India to create an impact?
There are various tech processes we use in the campaign. Technology is not just using social media or computer. It is about using automated and integrated systems such that all the decisions of campaign are made based on data and all the activities are coordinated and well tracked.
For example, the last-mile activity of knocking doors for campaigning in India is usually done by somebody in that ward who just distributes pamphlets. I have a plan to bring technology from here and modify in such a way that, any volunteer who has access to an app can go door-to-door based on geo-mapping and can see from his app the names of the people who live there and the topics to talk to them about.
With the new technology, this whole process will be customised and the engagement rate will be higher
How do you see the difference in between Indian and US voters and how do you plan to modify the technologies accordingly?
Any interested political party should start the adoption of technology at least 1.5 to 2 years before the election day. Again, technology is not just a twitter account or a Facebook account- it is the usage of integrated systems in every function of the campaign. It takes time to build and test the infrastructure and process. The returns of having such an advanced system are far higher than the traditional campaign.
What are the chances of Donald trump in winning the elections?
Donald Trump is not a traditional candidate. He has rewritten all the rules in political campaigning. He spent the least amount of money in the primary elections.
Trump is a smart businessman and knows how to market himself. He got a $2 billion worth free media coverage. No amount of spend can match that advantage.
How do you model a campaign and gauge the impact? Do you take help of other techies?
The model of a campaign depends on various factors :
a) Past voting trends in that area
b) Current polling trends
c) Are we retaining the seat or trying to gain a seat from other party?
d) Current demographics
e) Voter segmentation based on predictive modeling techniques
f) No. of contestants in the race
g) Candidate’s Strength and weakness
h) Opposition strength and weakness.
Based on all the above, I decide what strategy we ought to deploy in that race. The strategy we use and the vote goal we decide on a race with a first-time candidate running against an incumbent will be entirely different from the strategy and vote goal for a race with three or more candidates where incumbent is not running.
Will the future of elections rest on technology and Big Data?
Yes, the future of elections will depend largely on technology and big data. This is assuming that candidates on both sides are equal in other terms – capabilities, fund raising and popularity.
Elections are very complicated, and understanding the voter's choice is a complex phenomenon. This is simplified to a great extent by the use of Big Data. Use of technology simplifies the voter outreach programs and voter turnout programmes.
Source : Diksha Gupta, TechGig.com