Big data proves a vote winner with politicians


FT / Hannah Kulcher

New forms of data analytics are responding to the changing political climate, and politics itself is changing to accommodate big data. Obama’s win in 2012 marks a turning point in the use of big data, the rejection of oversimplified demographic analysis, as “Latinos” or “high-earners”, makes way for the use of new tools that can help politicians appeal to very specific groups of voters in different ways. The idea of populism is shifting. And with it the market in data analytics. Politicians’ desire to win votes is fostering a growing industry in these start-ups – new firms are exploiting the rise in popularity of analytics, targeting pollsters and political campaigns. The use of sophisticated tracking tools such as “cookies” can give companies a great deal of information about our searching and spending habits that help build a detailed picture of who voters are, and what they care about. This new information will change the face of politics – arguably it already has in 2016. This capacity to address very specific demographics will change the capacity for politicians to tailor their message; what happens to a democratic politics that is so specifically aimed at its intended audience? Will a candidate be universally popular if their message is altered dependent on who reads it?