Research event

The (not so) secret science behind campaigns

A presentation by David Nickerson (Temple University). This event is part of the Digital Governance Research Colloquium. Prior registration is not required.

This talk explains how US campaigns use data to target and shape their activities. Despite the myth the US campaigns purchase large amounts of proprietary consumer data, the vast majority of the data is generated by statements made by the voters themselves and their real world behaviour.  After explaining how US campaigns assemble their databases, it explains what models they construct from this backbone and the utility of such models.  While these models are effective at predicting voter behaviours and attitudes, they cannot tell the campaign which voters will be most responsive to campaign outreach.  To understand these dynamics, campaigns conduct experiments to understand how they can influence the electorate.  A large-scale volunteer persuasion experiment from the 2012 Obama re-election campaign is described in detail.  It demonstrates that persuasion is possible for even the highest salience, most polarized, and media attentive offices.

David Nickerson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Temple University. His research focuses substantively on how campaigns mobilise supporters and the effectiveness of these tactics. To gain reliable estimates of campaign tactics, he also thinks about research design and data collection. He teaches courses that introduce students to research design and the basics of quantitative analysis. In 2012, he served as the Director of Experiments for the Analytics Department of President Obama’s re-election campaign. He continues to collaborate with governmental and non-governmental groups to answer practical questions about engaging constituents.

This new research colloquium is a joint initiative of the Hertie School's Digital Governance Centre and the Data Science Lab. It brings together Hertie School's research community in the areas of digital governance, digital government and data science. It offers a forum for debating research on key issues of current research related to questions of digital governance, digital government and AI with an interdisciplinary audience.