Political Campaigns and Big Data

35 Pages Posted: 15 Nov 2013 Last revised: 12 Jun 2014

See all articles by David Nickerson

David Nickerson

University of Notre Dame

Todd Rogers

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: February 25, 2014


Modern campaigns develop databases of detailed information about citizens to inform electoral strategy and to guide tactical efforts. Despite sensational reports about the value of individual consumer data, the most valuable information campaigns acquire comes from the behaviors and direct responses provided by citizens themselves. Campaign data analysts develop models using this information to produce individual-level predictions about citizens’ likelihoods of performing certain political behaviors, of supporting candidates and issues, and of changing their support conditional on being targeted with specific campaign interventions. The use of these predictive scores has increased dramatically since 2004, and their use could yield sizable gains to campaigns that harness them. At the same time, their widespread use effectively creates a coordination game with incomplete information between allied organizations. As such, organizations would benefit from partitioning the electorate to not duplicate efforts, but legal and political constraints preclude that possibility.

Suggested Citation

Nickerson, David and Rogers, Todd, Political Campaigns and Big Data (February 25, 2014). HKS Working Paper No. RWP13-045. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2354474 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2354474

David Nickerson (Contact Author)

University of Notre Dame ( email )

361 Mendoza College of Business
Notre Dame, IN 46556-5646
United States

Todd Rogers

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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