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Why do 
italian politicians 
make little use of statistics ? 
Lack of database culture, anti-politics, 
obsolete legislation: 
the love story that never was 
by Dino Amenduni 
Personal Democracy Forum Italia 
Data-driven campaigns in Europe: what went wrong after Obama? 
Rome, 29 September 2014
2 
Who I am 
My name’s Dino Amenduni 
Twitter @doonie 
Facebook facebook.com/amenduni 
e-mail dino.amenduni@proformaweb.it 
all the rest about.me/dinoamenduni 
I’m Head of New Media and Political communication consultant 
at Proforma (www.proformaweb.it) 
I’m also a contributor and blogger for Finegil-Espresso Group, La Repubblica Bari. 
I also teach (political communication and social media marketing). 
All my slide presentations – including this one – are available for free 
(for reference and download) at the following address: 
www.slideshare.net/doonie 
Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
3 
Preliminary statement 
“It is a capital mistake to theorize 
before one has data. 
Insensibly one begins to twist 
facts to suit theories, instead 
of theories to suit facts”. 
Arthur Conan Doyle 
Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
4 
Comment live 
on Twitter use hashtag #PDFItaly 
on Facebook send your feedback to 
www.facebook.com/amenduni 
Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
5 
Two reasons 
(and two case histories) 
why Italian politicians 
don’t use statistics 
1. Lack of database culture 
2. Anti-politics and false data reading 
Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
6 
Lack 
of database 
culture 
Case history: Democratic Party 
(Primary elections 2012 
and General Elections 2013) 
I run for the Primary Elections, 
I have the data but I don’t use them 
1. 
Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
7 
Lack of database culture 
Differences between USA and Italy 
- in Italy, to vote no pre-registration is necessary 
→ no public database of voters 
- donations from individuals to politicians are less traceable 
→ it’s much more difficult to make donations publicly known 
and to turn them into usable data 
- stronger privacy policy in Italy (for the time being) 
For the above reasons an electoral campaign “Obama style” 
is nearly impossible in Italy. This doesn’t mean, however, 
hat nothing can be done. 
There exist public data (i.e. turnout and vote indications polling station 
by polling station): why not use them? 
Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
8 
Centre-left primary elections, 2012 
Results of Primary elections first round Results of second ballot 
1.7 million centre-left voters DID NOT vote for 
the Premier candidate at the Primary Elections. 
Are we sure that they did then go on to vote 
for him at the General Elections? 
Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
9 
General elections 2013 
Bersani doesn’t win the elections, 
nobody wins the elections, 
and this is partly because of the electoral 
law, which is different between 
the Senate and the House. 
Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
10 
Lack of database culture 
Would Bersani have won the general elections 
if he had used a database? Maybe yes 
The centre-left coalition was the only one to have a 
self-generated database, created on a voluntary 
basis by those who voted in the Primary Elections; it was 
made up of three million names, surnames, phone numbers, 
email addresses and places of residence. During the electoral 
campaign this database was only used for sending (very few) 
non-specific emails. 
Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
11 
Lack of database culture 
What can be done with these data (some possible uses)? 
1. Door-to-door campaigning in the 
municipalities where consensus for Renzi 
and Vendola was higher so as to strengthen 
the support for the centre-left coalition; 
2. The Primary election candidates could then have addressed 
their electors with a targeted “call-to-action”; 
3. Capillary fund-raising actions 
(an average of 1 € per head would have meant 3 million €) 
4. Crowdfunding actions 
(policies set up jointly with the electors, local events) 
Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
12 
Mistrust in politics 
and false reading 
of data 
Case history: European General Elections 2014 
National polls 
are too often wrong. 
2. 
Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
13 
European Elections 2014 
Average of polls on the European 
Elections (25 May 2014) 
Estimate of the distance between the Democratic Party 
and the 5 Star Movement: 8 points. 
Real distance after the Elections: 19 points. 
If scientific data are so wrong, how can we trust them? 
Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics? 
Fiinal results of European Elections 
(25 maggio 2014)
14 
Lack of trust in data 
Inaccurate polls = growing distrust 
towards pre-electoral data 
It had already happened in the General Elections of 2013, 
it happened again in the European Elections of 2014: 
the polls did not predict the final election result. 
Elsewhere (US elections, Scottish referendum) 
things went differently. 
Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
15 
Lack of trust in data 
Inaccurate polls = growing distrust 
towards pre-electoral data 
What happens in Italy? 
1. General Elections 2013: 
6.5% of citizens only made their final voting decision once 
actually inside the ballot box and 15% in the last 2 weeks 
2. The publication of polls is illegal 
in the fortnight leading up to the vote 
3. Trust rate in the Party and in Parliament permanently under 
10%: people are unwilling to reveal their vote 
4. At the same time, the polls for the Local Elections 
were much more reliable 
Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
16 
Lack of trust in data 
Data-driven campaigns in Italy: 
how can we save the polls? 
A working hypothesis: 
abolition of the ban on publishing polls in the 
last two weeks before the vote. 
For two reasons: 
a. In Italy, vote shifts in the last two weeks are considerable: the 
last available polls given the current law will always be 
imperfect, thus increasing the level of mistrust. 
b. In other countries (US, UK) polls are published even 
when polling stations are still open 
and this doesn’t seem to influence the vote outcome 
in any significant way. 
Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
17 
Sfiducia nei dati 
Data-driven campaigns in Italy: 
how can we save the polls? 
Two pieces of advice: 
1. Never trust a single poll, 
but rather monitor the trends on a weekly and monthly basis. 
2. Read carefully the poll questions: 
they can often influence the final result more 
than one would expect. 
Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
18 
Data-driven campaigns: 
further difficulties 
1. Poor communication between Institutions, little data sharing 
between Public Administrations, lack of transparency, corruption, 
waste of public money → Open Data are seen more as a threat 
than as an opportunity. 
2. Politics are rarely data-driven, 
as indeed is political journalism: 
opinions are stronger than facts. 
3. Mistrust in politics + lack of transparency in certifying donations to 
parties and candidates + progressive reduction of public financing 
to politics = low budgets for data collecting and processing. 
4. There is little political communication: besides data, 
too often there’s a lack of campaign managers, spin doctors, 
trainers for TV appearances. Italy is not House of Cards… 
Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
19 
Conclusion 
“Politicians use statistics 
like drunkards use lampposts: 
not for illumination, 
but for support”. 
Benjamin Disraeli 
Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
20 
Thank you! 
Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
Proforma srl 
bari 70122 - via putignani, 141 - tel 0805240227 - fax 0800999044 
roma 00184 - via iside, 12 - tel 0699920746 / 0699920744 - fax 1782225320 
facebook.com/proformaweb @proformaweb youtube.com/proformaweb 
proforma@proformaweb.it www.proformaweb.it

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Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?

  • 1. Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics ? Lack of database culture, anti-politics, obsolete legislation: the love story that never was by Dino Amenduni Personal Democracy Forum Italia Data-driven campaigns in Europe: what went wrong after Obama? Rome, 29 September 2014
  • 2. 2 Who I am My name’s Dino Amenduni Twitter @doonie Facebook facebook.com/amenduni e-mail dino.amenduni@proformaweb.it all the rest about.me/dinoamenduni I’m Head of New Media and Political communication consultant at Proforma (www.proformaweb.it) I’m also a contributor and blogger for Finegil-Espresso Group, La Repubblica Bari. I also teach (political communication and social media marketing). All my slide presentations – including this one – are available for free (for reference and download) at the following address: www.slideshare.net/doonie Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
  • 3. 3 Preliminary statement “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts”. Arthur Conan Doyle Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
  • 4. 4 Comment live on Twitter use hashtag #PDFItaly on Facebook send your feedback to www.facebook.com/amenduni Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
  • 5. 5 Two reasons (and two case histories) why Italian politicians don’t use statistics 1. Lack of database culture 2. Anti-politics and false data reading Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
  • 6. 6 Lack of database culture Case history: Democratic Party (Primary elections 2012 and General Elections 2013) I run for the Primary Elections, I have the data but I don’t use them 1. Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
  • 7. 7 Lack of database culture Differences between USA and Italy - in Italy, to vote no pre-registration is necessary → no public database of voters - donations from individuals to politicians are less traceable → it’s much more difficult to make donations publicly known and to turn them into usable data - stronger privacy policy in Italy (for the time being) For the above reasons an electoral campaign “Obama style” is nearly impossible in Italy. This doesn’t mean, however, hat nothing can be done. There exist public data (i.e. turnout and vote indications polling station by polling station): why not use them? Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
  • 8. 8 Centre-left primary elections, 2012 Results of Primary elections first round Results of second ballot 1.7 million centre-left voters DID NOT vote for the Premier candidate at the Primary Elections. Are we sure that they did then go on to vote for him at the General Elections? Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
  • 9. 9 General elections 2013 Bersani doesn’t win the elections, nobody wins the elections, and this is partly because of the electoral law, which is different between the Senate and the House. Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
  • 10. 10 Lack of database culture Would Bersani have won the general elections if he had used a database? Maybe yes The centre-left coalition was the only one to have a self-generated database, created on a voluntary basis by those who voted in the Primary Elections; it was made up of three million names, surnames, phone numbers, email addresses and places of residence. During the electoral campaign this database was only used for sending (very few) non-specific emails. Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
  • 11. 11 Lack of database culture What can be done with these data (some possible uses)? 1. Door-to-door campaigning in the municipalities where consensus for Renzi and Vendola was higher so as to strengthen the support for the centre-left coalition; 2. The Primary election candidates could then have addressed their electors with a targeted “call-to-action”; 3. Capillary fund-raising actions (an average of 1 € per head would have meant 3 million €) 4. Crowdfunding actions (policies set up jointly with the electors, local events) Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
  • 12. 12 Mistrust in politics and false reading of data Case history: European General Elections 2014 National polls are too often wrong. 2. Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
  • 13. 13 European Elections 2014 Average of polls on the European Elections (25 May 2014) Estimate of the distance between the Democratic Party and the 5 Star Movement: 8 points. Real distance after the Elections: 19 points. If scientific data are so wrong, how can we trust them? Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics? Fiinal results of European Elections (25 maggio 2014)
  • 14. 14 Lack of trust in data Inaccurate polls = growing distrust towards pre-electoral data It had already happened in the General Elections of 2013, it happened again in the European Elections of 2014: the polls did not predict the final election result. Elsewhere (US elections, Scottish referendum) things went differently. Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
  • 15. 15 Lack of trust in data Inaccurate polls = growing distrust towards pre-electoral data What happens in Italy? 1. General Elections 2013: 6.5% of citizens only made their final voting decision once actually inside the ballot box and 15% in the last 2 weeks 2. The publication of polls is illegal in the fortnight leading up to the vote 3. Trust rate in the Party and in Parliament permanently under 10%: people are unwilling to reveal their vote 4. At the same time, the polls for the Local Elections were much more reliable Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
  • 16. 16 Lack of trust in data Data-driven campaigns in Italy: how can we save the polls? A working hypothesis: abolition of the ban on publishing polls in the last two weeks before the vote. For two reasons: a. In Italy, vote shifts in the last two weeks are considerable: the last available polls given the current law will always be imperfect, thus increasing the level of mistrust. b. In other countries (US, UK) polls are published even when polling stations are still open and this doesn’t seem to influence the vote outcome in any significant way. Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
  • 17. 17 Sfiducia nei dati Data-driven campaigns in Italy: how can we save the polls? Two pieces of advice: 1. Never trust a single poll, but rather monitor the trends on a weekly and monthly basis. 2. Read carefully the poll questions: they can often influence the final result more than one would expect. Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
  • 18. 18 Data-driven campaigns: further difficulties 1. Poor communication between Institutions, little data sharing between Public Administrations, lack of transparency, corruption, waste of public money → Open Data are seen more as a threat than as an opportunity. 2. Politics are rarely data-driven, as indeed is political journalism: opinions are stronger than facts. 3. Mistrust in politics + lack of transparency in certifying donations to parties and candidates + progressive reduction of public financing to politics = low budgets for data collecting and processing. 4. There is little political communication: besides data, too often there’s a lack of campaign managers, spin doctors, trainers for TV appearances. Italy is not House of Cards… Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
  • 19. 19 Conclusion “Politicians use statistics like drunkards use lampposts: not for illumination, but for support”. Benjamin Disraeli Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
  • 20. 20 Thank you! Why do italian politicians make little use of statistics?
  • 21. Proforma srl bari 70122 - via putignani, 141 - tel 0805240227 - fax 0800999044 roma 00184 - via iside, 12 - tel 0699920746 / 0699920744 - fax 1782225320 facebook.com/proformaweb @proformaweb youtube.com/proformaweb proforma@proformaweb.it www.proformaweb.it