Big Data Elections: This is What Political Campaigns Know About You

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In 2008, the then-upstart Obama campaign famously claimed that its biggest asset, besides its candidate, was its data. It allowed them to identify volunteers, target digital ads to potential supporters, and most importantly, encourage them to get out and vote. 

Now, both Republicans and Democrats are in the big data game, and for candidates, access to those databases is everything. That's why Bernie Sanders' campaign immediately brought the Democratic National Committee to court after it cut the campaign's access to the DNC's database.

In this case, the software vendor for the DNC mistakenly allowed a staffer from the Sanders' campaign to access data from Hillary Clinton's campaign. That staff person was fired, and Senator Sanders apologized to Secretary Clinton during Saturday's debate. 

The DNC is the gatekeeper for this data, even as individual campaigns collect and enter the information their canvassers and analysts gather from voters. Ethan Roeder was the national data director for the Obama campaign in 2008 and 2012, and he explains what campaigns are looking to know about voters, and how they get that information. 

What you'll learn from this segment: 

  • What modern political campaigns know about voters.
  • What makes this data so valuable.
  • How candidates use this data during an election.