Obama campaign’s chief data guy gets candid about the data strategy that won the election
President Barack Obama is known for running one of the most tech-savvy political campaigns in the history of US politics. The chief scientist of the Obama campaign’s data analytics team, Rayid Ghani, shared some insights on how that campaign worked at the TiEcon 2013 conference Friday, an event aimed at entrepreneurs.
Ghani said he and his team applied advanced data-mining and machine-learning techniques to create new tools for voter turnout, fund raising, advertising, social media outreach, and email campaigns. You’d think the team would have worked with huge amounts of data to come up with simulation models that would shape the outcome of an election, but Ghani said “it was the smallest dataset,” he’d ever used in a real problem.
The key data points were voter registration data – information that is publicly available – and data around people who supported Obama by either volunteering or making contributions to the campaign.
With a year and a half to put the data to work, Ghani didn’t have the luxury to recruit and train a team of engineers on a new technology, or for that matter “install, figure and implement a new technology.”
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