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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Obama Campaign: Analytics and Evidence

At TechPresident, Nick Judd and Micah L. Sifry write that the driving principle of the Obama campaign was an evidence-based approach to person-to-person contact. 
From a certain point of view, the only truly new thing in the 2012 Obama campaign was the ability to get all of the campaign's gears to work together more smoothly. The door-to-door ground game was a legacy of 2008. Obama for America also stood out in 2008 for a structure that placed senior digital staffers on the same level as other top staff rather subordinate to another shop within the campaign, something that many campaigns emulated in 2010 and again in 2012. In this election, OfA merely put more resources into an area — technological campaign infrastructure — that the evidence indicated would be useful to help them win. As chief innovation and integration officer, Michael Slaby sat at the campaign's highest level, with a chief technology officer, chief information officer, and chief analytics officer all reporting to him.
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"There were analytics types all over the campaign," said Amelia Showalter, the campaign's director of digital analytics. Besides digital, there were separate analytics teams dedicated to modeling, the battleground states, polling, paid media, finance and communications.
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"There was constant testing," Showalter said. "A lot of people were responsible for that culture ... a culture of experimentation. If we had an idea that was kooky, we would test it to see if it would work."
For example, for a fundraising email, the digital department decided to try emphasizing text with highlighting that was ugly on purpose. It outperformed other emails, so the campaign kept using it — the formatting trick seemed to draw the eye. When the novelty wore off and that tactic stopped performing better than other ones, the campaign dropped it and moved on.
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The 2008 campaign made 30 million phone calls to voters, according to Daniel Kreiss' book "Taking Our Country Back: The Crafting of Networked Politics from Howard Dean to Barack Obama." In a campaign memo sent the weekend before election day, campaign officials claimed they had already made 125 million calls to voters or door-knocks in 2012. In an interview with Politico on Tuesday, campaign manager Jim Messina said the campaign registered 1.8 million people "on the doors" and another 1.1 million people online. He also said that the use of targeted sharing, the program that combined Facebook data on users with internal data on voters among those users' friends to suggest which content those users should share, allowed the campaign to reach more than five million people "directly through their Facebook world and people that they knew."