Presidential 2022: the challenge of data

What are the tools and methods of analysis used by campaign teams and what advantages can these new methods bring to the modern electoral game? Overview of these new practices.

Analytics and elections: a recent practice

Many areas have benefited from advances in digital technology and Web 2.0. The increase in the computing power of computers and the volume of data generated and exploited has allowed the creation and development of many products and services, revolutionizing the economic sectors and social organization. At the heart of these problems is a discipline: data science (data science), whose main purpose is to extract knowledge from this considerable mass of data.

One area in particular has benefited from this real revolution in the digital business during the 2010s, the world of politics and its election campaigns. The American example is instructive, the forerunner of Web 2.0 was also in the field of electoral data analysis. During the 2012 U.S. presidential election, opposing candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, each candidate’s campaign teams spent nearly $ 80 million on online advertising campaigns, the effectiveness of which depends especially on the ability to target a specific profile voter. At that time, the election campaign led to the development of voting data collection applications, which are useful for tracking the rate of mobilization of specific groups of voters and directing them with messages encouraging them to go to the polls. .

During the previous election in 2008, Barack Obama’s victory was already based on a social media communication strategy that showed the beginning of the exploitation of a considerable mass of data that would later become an essential tool for election campaigns. More recently and closer to French electoral issues, the 2017 presidential election was an opportunity to deploy similar methods. Thus, the election campaign led by the teams of Emmanuel Macron was based on the extensive use of massive datawith for example the electoral mapping tool offered by the French start-up LMP (now eXplain).

Digital marketing methods applied to citizens

At the heart of issues related to election data are digital marketing methods, which refer to all the marketing techniques used on the Internet and mobile networks. This online marketing aims to exploit the full potential of web tools in terms of customer communication, with interactivity as the protagonist. The customer data used in this marketing approach allows you to better define a customer profile and tailor communication to that profile, in accordance with microsegmentation and customer orientation techniques.

If digital marketing aims to facilitate the sale of products and services by exploiting user data, electoral analysis is part of the same philosophy where commercial products are replaced by candidates and target customers by the electorate.

Methods and tools in practice

The use of analytics in the electoral field has therefore made it possible to develop a whole range of useful techniques for candidates: analysis of social networks (monitoring of campaign themes and user reactions), electoral mapping tools, determination of the profile of voters, determination of appropriate communication channels for the target electorate with the choice of platform, format and intermediaries (use of influencers for example), monitoring of the mobilization of the electorate, adequacy of communication to an objective electorate or even predictive analysis, which allow the voting intentions of a candidate within a given electoral population to be assessed as accurately as possible.

If these new methods are called upon to revolutionize the way we conduct election campaigns, certain obstacles remain. Thus, they require the mobilization of advanced knowledge and access to voluminous and varied data sources (demographic, socioeconomic, geographic data, social media user data and other applications, etc.). In addition to the difficulties of collecting and processing data, they need to be updated periodically, in fact, predictive models of election campaigns need to mobilize the latest data in order to provide relevant and accurate information to campaign teams.

Between the search for legitimacy and difficulties

Electoral analysis has already shown its relevance as an essential tool in the various national elections, its use is intended to be further developed to become an essential tool for conducting election campaigns.

If the development of this practice is a radical paradigm shift for the construction of an electoral strategy, it is nevertheless fraught with legal and ethical difficulties, as evidenced by certain scandals such as Facebook-Cambridge Analytica, where the data personalities of tens of millions of Facebook accounts had been used without the explicit consent of their users to influence their votes in various elections, such as the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The question of the legitimacy of the use of certain data remains fundamental, as well as the influence, even the manipulation that this data could generate in an election. Ethical issues surrounding election analytics will take a growing place as these tools become the subject of a veritable plebiscite within the campaign teams.

While waiting for the election analysis to become more democratic, the real impact of this practice on voting will need to be assessed. As for France, see you on April 10 for a first answer. “Voted!”