About the Blog

I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material. We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience. I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:

--To post questions or comments about the readings before we discuss them in class;
--To follow up on class discussions with additional comments or questions.
--To post relevant news items or videos.

There are only two major limitations: no coarse language, and no derogatory comments about people at the Claremont Colleges. This blog is on the open Internet, so post nothing that you would not want a potential employer to see.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Campaign Finance Hypocrisy

Going back to campaign finance, this article in Politico is about how Democrat donors are as secretive as Republican donors. The author writes that the Democrat attack on the Koch brothers is hypocritical because many of its donors are also shrouded in mystery. 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tech and the Future

An overview of the Obama organization:
To really understand what happened behind the scenes at the Obama campaign, you need to know a little bit about its organizational structure. Tech was Harper Reed's domain. "Digital" was Joe Rospars' kingdom; his team was composed of the people who sent you all those emails, designed some of the consumer-facing pieces of BarackObama.com, and ran the campaigns' most-excellent accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, video, and the like. Analytics was run by Dan Wagner, and those guys were responsible for coming up with ways of finding and targeting voters they could persuade or turn out. Jeremy Bird ran Field, the on-the-ground operations of organizing voters at the community level that many consider Obama's secret sauce . The tech for the campaign was supposed to help the Field, Analytics, and Digital teams do their jobs better. Tech, in a campaign or at least this campaign or perhaps any successful campaign, has to play a supporting role. The goal was not to build a product. The goal was to reelect the President. As Reed put it, if the campaign were Moneyball, he wouldn't be Billy Beane, he'd be "Google Boy."

Some pointers from an alum:

Learn statistics and coding

Test assumptions. In Inside the CavePatrick Ruffini quotes a senior member of the Obama digital team saying "“We basically found our guts were worthless."

Think probabilistically, change the culture. Again, from Patrick Ruffini:
Often, people get excited about being “data-driven” but only go part way. If you’re asking for a “data driven” ad buy to women 35 to 49, how do you know women 35 to 49 are the right target? Did you test it? The reason you collect data is to optimize based on probability. Instead, try placing an ad designed to reach individuals with a score of 70 or more on your persuadability model. The targeting itself also needs to be done probabilistically.

The culture shift needed in politics is not one of technology. Everyone loves technology and wants more of it, because it lets you to do whatever you’re doing more efficiently. The problem is that what you’re doing could be the wrong thing. Applied the wrong way, technology helps you run very fast in the wrong direction.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Turnout, Targeting, Technology, and 2014

There was not a lot of ticket-splitting in 2012.

At The New York Times,UCLA's Professor Lynn Vavreck explains:
[O]nly a small percentage of voters actually switched sides between 2008 and 2010. Moreover, there were almost as many John McCain voters who voted for a Democratic House candidate in 2010 as there were Obama voters who shifted the other way. That may be a surprise to some, but it comes from one of the largest longitudinal study of voters, YouGov’s Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project (C.C.A.P.), for which YouGov interviewed 45,000 people at multiple points during 2011 and 2012.
The results clearly show that voters in 2010 did not abandon the Democrats for the other side, but they did forsake the party in another important way: Many stayed home.

Brits Adopt US Politicos, Campaign Strategies

From POLITICO: In the UK, both the Labour Party and the Tories have poached two leading US political consultants to adapt their messaging strategies and help them win. This is notable for several reasons. For one, they chose David Axelrod and Jim Messina...two Democrats who had helped Obama win his 2 presidential elections. It is telling that both parties chose Democrats to help rebrand their party and their major candidates. These choices evidence that political consultants, not candidates, are driving elections more than ever--and not just in the US. Finally, British politics are different from politics in the US, of course, so we will have to see how the consultants' strategies translate.