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2008 vs 2016: How campaigns use data to profile and persuade voters

Greg Ruben / Axios

Before our lives turned digital, campaigns relied on field workers doing door-to-door interviews and calling landlines to survey voters about their personal characteristics and political preferences. They'd use that data to inform their advertising strategies — which typically revolved around major TV buys. Now, Americans spend nearly 6 hours per day consuming digital media( up to 50 minutes per day on Facebook alone), creating troves of data about their internet behavior, emotional biases and consumer habits.

Why it matters: As Americans spend more time online, campaigns are able to build more precise pictures of voters to augment old mainstays, like field data, state voter files and census information. Because the majority of experts (campaign flacks, media members, pollsters, etc.) failed to accurately predict 2016 election outcomes, a growing emphasis is being placed on how best to allocate resources between scrubbing, double-checking and supplementing traditional voter file data with the online tools that grow more sophisticated every year.