Big Data is Not the End All Solution

The Clinton campaign had an army of data crunching analysts to micro target like Obama.  So, what happened?   Strategy and timing failures. Big ones that may have empowered their opponents. Read on from the website Jacobin, an excellent post-mortem:


A Losing Coalition

The Democrats’ losses last week all stem from the same cause: the hollowing out of middle- and working-class America. Preview the new issue of Jacobin, out November 21. To mark its release, we’re offering discounted introductory subscriptions.



DATA NERD ALERT! 2016 New Mexico Voter Registration Shifts:

Small Dem Gains, Republicans Hang On, Third Party Moves, Libertarian Shocker, Independents No Longer Cool

In the run up to the 2016 general election this November, inevitably, the voter registration push ensues.  This year, patterns of change are not typical to most cycles.

nm_reg_voters_2016_01 Democrats and Republicans had been on a generally descending path concerning share of the total registered voters.  Although both parties slid, the Democrats slid more than the Republicans in overall share.  Democrats used to have over 50% of the registrations. 2008 was the last time that was true. At the start of 2016, Democrats had 46% of the share.

Republicans have never had a majority of registrations.  Back in November of 2008, their share was 31.7%.  Coming in to 2016, they stood basically at 31% even.

People with no party (DTS) the so called Independents, have been on a near two decade run of increased share of the registered voters pie.  With 19.3% share at the beginning of the year, talk of independents having a full fifth of the registrations seemed plausible.

Third parties have slowly incremented up in registration shares over time the pace at times could be described as glacial. Sitting at 3.3% to start the year was only a 0.6% increase from 2008.

The Registration Race of 2016

Using the report just days before the closing of the registration books for 2016, the results are interesting.  Democrats have gained a one half of one percent share of the registrants overall. This is a reversal of a previous trend.

Republicans continued their slow slide.  The other interesting change is that

DTS registrations lost share (-0.78%) in the year, sliding to 18%.  The other interesting turn is third parties gained over a quarter of one percent (+0.28%) in nine months alone.  The election of 2016 was one of the most energized primary seasons since 1976. Neither party had an incumbent or Vice President running. Both major parties had populist candidates (Sanders & Trump) that activated non-primary voters into action.  My speculation for the DTS drop off is disaffected voters, particularly Sanders supporters came back from Independent status to vote in the primary for the Senator.

The Surge Shown In One Graph


So what does it take to move the numbers so quickly in nine months?  Beating the average growth and in a big fashion.  This chart shows the average growth of all registered voters in 2016 in New Mexico. New Mexico now has 5.05% more registered voters than it did in January of 2016.  If you beat this average, your share of the overall pie grows, if you don’t, it shrinks.  It is that simple.  I show two time periods here, late August and late September and their rate of increase over 01/2016.

Every segment of registration categories gained by raw voters by September, but notice the DTS line.  Their numbers actually fell from January to August of 2016.  Only a late surge got them positive, and still well below the state average.   Republicans stayed with the average growth but did not surge at all at the end, bringing them just under the line.  Democrats beat the average by almost a percent. This is why they reversed their trend.

Other parties category increased over 12% more than doubling the average rate of increase.  Other includes anything that is not Dem, Rep, or DTS.  Wondering if the Gary Johnson or Jill Stein campaigns were having an effect on their parties, I acquired breakdowns from the Other column for their parties specifically.   The Green party registrations are up over 8% from January. While that is good news in one way, it lags the overall growth of other parties.

The big story is the Libertarians growing almost 24% in one year.  If gaining 19.5% was not enough by August they added another 5% to that in one month!  This is the bulk of the Other party lunge.  True, it is easier to get larger percentage increases when you have fewer voter to start with, but it also means you typically have fewer people doing the work.  As a result, the Libertarian movement this year is none short of phenomenal.

Requests for raw data can be obtained from SC Consulting. Feel free to contact us.




What Color and size is the Chessboard? (Vol 2)

Deadly messaging errors. (Prediction and correction)


Setting the tone in your campaign is crucial.  A campaign for the same office in different years can be remarkably different in nature due to many factors such as:

  • Different opponents
  • Changing Demographics of Electorate
  • Issue viewpoint shifts (Macro and Micro)

As much as your campaign can, figuring out the correct mood of the electorate will help you greatly in messaging out well from the beginning. The more you can tune your candidates issues and positions to match both the candidates lifespan AND the public sentiment, the more natural your candidate’s message will appear.  Having a natural feel to the campaign will help voters feel at ease and more likely to vote your way.

Unfortunately, no campaign is perfect.  So what happens when you find your candidate is out of sync with the mood and opinion of the electorate?  Most campaigns will recommend a “shift” in the candidate’s position closer to that of the electorate.  While this might seem logical at first, there are many dangers associated with shifting.

Incremental shifts weaken perceived strength.

When an opponent is found to be holding the high ground on an issue, the tactic of incremental shift tends to be the first reaction. In the 1990s Democrats adopted a “New Democrat” philosophy shifting closer to the pro-business, tough on crime, aggressive foreign policy stances of the Republicans (Republican-lite).  Currently (2016) Jeb Bush is shifting away from his family’s notoriously pro-immigrant stance to match other hard-line Republicans.  Hillary Clinton as well is seeking a more progressive tone to her campaign and employing shifts. (I’m a progressive, but a progressive that gets things done.)

Here is the big problem with the incremental shift. It signals that your campaign recognizes your opponent to be correct.  Voters pick up on this quite well. If you believe being somewhat like candidate B is good, then why would a voter choose candidate A at all?  The answers to that question start involving paragraphs. When that happens, voters tune you out.

So, there are two possible ways to go apart from incrementalism:

#1 Completely adopt and absorb your opponent’s position

This is a high-risk strategy that involves several steps.  Fist, state that you have heard the people and an agree wholeheartedly with your new position.  Secondly, and this may be tougher, you have to walk the talk.  This involves your candidate taking to heart the message so it is believable. It also means breaking any ties that may be in conflict with your new position. Returning donations from conflicting sources and making that public.

In general, this strategy is tough to pull off.  It can only work if your opponent is very weak on all the other issues in the race.  This can allow you to focus back on the issues in which you have strength.  Remember though, this is not incrementalism, you must go all-in or don’t do it at all.

#2 Re-Brand / Re-Word

Your candidate carries certain positions for valid reasons.  Communicating these to the public effectively is the job of the campaign. Voters at-large are open to hearing messages from campaigns in hope to connect and be a part of something big.

Words matter.  There truly are a hundred ways to present the same facts.  The trick is to find the correct word choices to communicate to your district.  Campaigns tend to be filled with pros and activists, people who have been deep into politic for a long time.  This can create an insular environment where campaigns use rhetoric that shoots above a voter’s head, or uses insider buzzwords that either mean nothing to the average voter or scare them away.  Being able to communicate outside of one’s campaign self is crucial to success.

If the angle you have chosen is not working, concentrate big efforts to re-word the same position to be more reachable.  If worse comes to worse and re-wording is not working, then drop the issue and try to re-brand the campaign emphasis on other strong points.

These steps may help your campaign get back on track.  The key is to not get too frustrated or dismissive at any time. Organize forward.


How GIS and Political Understanding Work Hand-In-Hand

Here is a link to great practical article on how GIS and voter analysis go hand in hand.

Do you do analysis on a regular basis before launching a new project?

How GIS is Helpful in Analyzing Voting Patterns