Category Archives for Strategy

Political Technology: A Means to an End

There’s some real innovation starting to take place in center right politics in regards to political technology, and we’d like to think Voter Gravity is right at the forefront if it all. However, in the midst of this revolution, it’s probably good to remind people that technology is a means to an end. It is not the end in and of itself.

Having great technology and great data are a must if the center right is to make gains in future elections.  But having great “whizbangery” is not going to actually cause the center right to win. It’s knowing how to use said whizbangery that will help the center right win. Harper Reed, the Chief Technology Officer of the Obama for America campaign, said, “The technology was not the real innovation. The real innovation was the ground game.” It was Obama’s technology that refined voter contact to very targeted demographics with the right messages, and allowed the volunteers to focus on the right voters with the best message that was the recipe for success.

It was about having as personal a contact as possible with voters, and emphasizing the quality of the contacts (I wrote about some of this for The American Spectator back in May). So in conversations about political technology, especially in regards to canvassing and GOTV, we have to emphasize what it’s about ultimately: live voter contact.

It’s that shift that needs to take place on the center right: using political technology to shift how it approaches politics and emphasizes more live contact with targeted voters. It’s not about door literature drops or an over-emphasis on phone banks (though Voter Gravity has a predictive phone system), but actual real life conversations and interactions with targeted voters.

That’s what technology like Voter Gravity is meant to do: take volunteers or candidates going door-to-door on the most efficient route to the right doors to talk with the right voters to ask the right questions. Then, with the data collected, empower candidates or advocacy groups to be able to make strategic and even financial decisions.

Political Data and Asking the “Right” Questions

Properly organized political data can provide campaigns with a wealth of information about their voters – from which voters they should target, to how best they can deliver their message to each.

While the potential for what can be learned is immense (and largely untapped), there is an even greater potential for drawing inaccurate conclusions from such data. The human brain is incredibly proficient at recognizing patterns – even when no such patterns exist. Those who wish to put political data to efficient use, then, must take great care not to manufacture insights about groups of voters that simply aren’t true.

Before campaigns can begin accumulating their own political data, they must make some very basic – yet very important – decisions.

“Which questions should we be asking our voters?”

There are lots of assumptions being made about which questions are the “right” ones to ask voters, and there are a number of factors that must be considered before making this choice. Different campaigns and advocacy groups may have very different budgets, timeframes, and overall goals, so each must decide for themselves which questions are the “right” ones to ask.

For example, a smaller campaign for local office may not have the same ability to act on micro-targeted issue tags that a well-funded US Senate campaign might. Similarly, that same US Senate campaign may not have nearly as much incentive to use unregistered voter data that, say, a County GOP running year-round, targeted registration drives might. It’s important for every campaign to take a look at their budget, timeframe, and realistic goals before deciding which data points will be most useful for them.

We’ll dive in with specific examples of which questions are “right” for your campaign in later posts, and first we’ll explore more quantitative data that doesn’t require any questions at all.

While identifying supporters and key issues can provide invaluable information to campaigns, there is plenty of useful data already available that most campaigns are simply not utilizing as well as they should.

For example, if you’re running a primary campaign, identifying which voters in your district have voted in primaries in the past will prove far more useful than identifying which voters feel strongly about gun control. Making efficient use of demographic and voter history data is essential, and finding tools that allow your campaign to identify which voters are most likely to show up to your primary should be your top priority.

Once you’re in a position to effectively use quantitative data, then you can begin to think about mixing in qualitative data to your strategic decision making process.

It is true that qualitative data, which relies on the human element to collect and interpret what all this information means, is less “scientific” than more quantitative data points, such as age, gender, party affiliation, and voter history.

Making conclusions based on this data can often lead to serious errors – especially when those conclusions are used as the foundation of other analyses and decisions.

Accurately combining quantitative and qualitative data is no easy task. To reason correctly about such information, campaigns must consider many complicated, abstract facts that are strongly related yet importantly distinct, without a single mix-up or conflation.

Voter Gravity services a network of clients across the country, at all levels of political office. The insights provided by this closed loop of useful data, combined with the careful statistical techniques employed by our team of analysts, make it possible for campaigns everywhere to make truly informed decisions about their data.

It’s very nice – and surprisingly easy – to pretend that correlation implies causation. Here at Voter Gravity, we’re putting in the hard work necessary to ensure that conservative grassroots efforts everywhere have the tools and techniques they need to collect and store valuable, accurate information about voters – and also to act on that information wisely.

In the coming weeks, we’ll explore some examples of the most common data interpretation mistakes being made by campaigns today, as well as discuss how these campaigns can use Voter Gravity to correct them. Stay tuned.

Can the GOP hack it?

Every few weeks, an article or conference panel pops up asking the question “Can the GOP close the digital divide?” Gone are the days when such conversations began with the premise, “Is there a digital divide?”

These discussions inevitably hark back to the 2012 election, where the Obama campaign used the full weight of incumbency to build a world-class technology team with the time and mandate to build an infrastructure that united the campaign’s data like no one had ever done before. They integrated data, effectively analyzed it, and spoke to voters using messages based on their insights.

Not to take away from what the Obama campaign accomplished, but that was almost a year ago, an eternity in the Moore’s Law-driven world of exponentially changing technology. The way people think about – and use – technology develops rapidly and continuously. For instance, the number of people who use a mobile phone to access the internet increased by 60.3% in just the last 2 years. Continue reading →


In the aftermath of the 2012 Republican defeat, we have no shortage of GOP strategists willing to embrace the impact of data and technology in electoral politics. All but the most stubborn are also racing to implement some form of “new software tools” or “Big Data analytics” into their strategic rhetoric moving forward, in an effort to “catch up to the left” and their successful use of new tech.

Most speak of their decision to accept the way campaigning has changed as transformative, as if choosing to ditch the pencil and paper will itself put Republicans on even ground with the opposition.

The truth is that campaigning has not only changed – it is continuing to change. Simply implementing comparable techniques to what Obama’s 2012 team utilized (while a huge step forward for most Republican efforts) will not be enough. The Democrats’ 2012 data operations were successful not because they had never been used before; they were successful because they had been used before – and built upon nonstop since the day Obama was first elected in 2008. Continue reading →

3 ways Big Data can change your campaign

Last November, despite a rocky economy and high unemployment, Barack Obama won the White House. And while there have been many debates about how he won, almost every observer will agree that one of the biggest factors was his groundbreaking use of data.

But what does that mean exactly? And how does it apply to someone running for the state legislature or county commission? Continue reading →