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Data and GOTV


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Presentation given to my class as part of my studies for a Masters Degree in Public Affairs and Political Communication. The presentation looks at the use of voter data and the Get Out The Vote (GOTV) program run by the Obama Campaign and the Democratic Party.

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Data and GOTV

  1. 1. How the Democrats Won the Data War<br />GOTV in the 2008 Election<br />Christopher Mehigan<br />MA Public Affairs & Political Communications<br />March 2010<br />
  2. 2. Elections won and lost on the margins<br />A classical view of political campaigns is that presidential elections are won and lost on the margins: namely a small percentage of the electorate ultimately determine, or have a disproportionately large affect on, which candidate wins and loses. <br />This view rests on the assumption of a relative predictable pattern of voting behavior, largely based on party affiliation. Campaigns assume that voters can be classified in one of three broad categories.<br />In order to win, a campaign seeks to do two things both of which come under the heading of Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV)<br />
  3. 3. Deployingthe Grass Roots<br />Unlike the Howard Dean campaign of 2004 – which established a grass roots network, the Obama campaign took the model further by engaging and deploying the network.<br />GOTV operations mounted by the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party mobilized over 1 milliondedicated volunteers on Election Day, buttressed by a year-long, psychographic voter targeting and contact operation.<br />The Obama campaign, and federal party committees attempted to contact over 106 millionpeople. (Over 46% of the United States adult population)<br />
  4. 4. Targeting Swing States<br />The campaign did not rely entirely on the grass roots network established. They retained the services of a professional organization to coordinate and run the canvassing. The organization particularly focused on key battlegrounds. 82% of the organizations activities occurred in 16 highly contested swing states. <br />Where 37% of all people who voted in those states had been contacted.<br />
  5. 5. SwingingStates<br />In 4 states the number of new votes cast exceeded Obama’s victory margin: Ohio,Florida,IndianaandNorth Carolina<br />At the heart of the campaign was a sophisticated database to make sure they contacted the right people and not supporters of the other candidate.<br />The database had been updated throughout the campaign through its field office computers and also by volunteers through with information about potential voters.<br />
  6. 6. Using the Database<br />Once the database had been populated and put in place it allowed volunteers and staff to target their communication.<br />Someone identified as supporter is likely to have been called and reminded where to go to vote. People identified as undecided may receive a call or personal visit from a volunteer to find out how they could still be persuaded. Those identified as opposed were not contacted. <br />
  7. 7. Turnout<br />Previous campaigns had tapped the internet but the Obama campaign is the first to successfully integrate technology with a revamped model of political organisation that stresses volunteer participation and feedback on a massive scale.<br />The organization contacted approximately 49 million adults more than 127 million times, about half of those contacted managed to vote.<br />Those 28 million that voted represented more than 20% of all votes cast.<br />
  8. 8. Voter Behavior<br />It’s hard to know why individual voters are motivated to cast ballots. However the impact of the GOTV of the Obama campaign is hard to dismiss.<br />In the 16 States targeted by the organization more than 1 in 3 voters was contacted at least once before election day.<br />According to analysis, those registered voters contacted turned out at a rate of 74.6%<br />The voters who weren’t contacted turned out in proportions roughly equivalent to the national average – about 60.4%<br />David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager, said the data and modeling served as a “great radar about the electorate” and helped the campaign develop smart tactics and metrics(and strategy) about delivering their message. <br />
  9. 9. END<br />Christopher Mehigan<br />MA Public Affairs and Political Communication <br />March 2010<br />