Big Data

The Election Scorecard: How big data, big money, and social media equal electoral victory

Politics is big business, and in modern elections the candidates that raise the most money from the largest following are most likely to win. Follow the race in real-time with the Election Scorecard.

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Image: Election Scorecard

Money can't buy love. But big money, a big social media following, and big data might be able to buy an election. This campaign season, money and social media success are two of the most important factors in forecasting who will win the election.

The Election Scorecare by Enga.ge is a big data tool that automates influence tracking by combining candidate fundraising totals with aggregated user interaction data from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

Enga.ge partner David Almacy said tracking money is essential. "Fundraising—money—is a key performance indicator for electoral success. Money pays for necessary things like staff, advertising, and consultants," he said in a recent interview. "Money pays for structure, and structure helps campaigns [win elections]."

READ: DOJ staffer erroneously uses official Twitter handle to call out CNN (CBS News)

Since 2008, and especially 2012, social media has become an increasingly important factor for gauging public opinion, Almacy explained. He built a prototype of the current Scorecard prior to the 2012 election. In a blog post, he wrote, "[My colleagues and I] discussed the evolving media landscape and the role of social media in shaping politics and public policy." His goal was to extrapolate specific, useful takeaways about political races and public policy by aggregating and analyzing social media user engagement data like content sharing patterns, Twitter followers, and Facebook and Instagram likes.

Prior to working at Engage and developing the current Election Scorecard, Almacy was White House Internet & E-Communications Director and a presidential appointee for the George W. Bush administration at the Department of Education. He later worked as an adjunct professor for Georgetown University and digital advisor for C-SPAN.

The current Election Scorecard is a more sophisticated version of Almacy's initial list. The Scorecard has matured from a list to a mobile-friendly platform that pulls data several times per day, updates in real time, and features open APIs and exportable data in common formats like XLS and CSV. Importantly, the Scorecard lets users swap presidential candidates for local politicians, celebrities, and other social media personalities.

"The Election Scorecard started as a fun, personal project," said Almacy with a smile. "It still is. But we want it to grow and be a useful product. APIs and open data are a big part of scaling the Scorecard, and making it useful for a larger audience."

SEE: Big decisions with big data (Tech Pro Research article)

Since January TechRepublic has also used social media and big data to quantify candidate performance. Using data TechRepublic's Dan Patterson and political scientist William P Stodden pulled from Twitter, we discovered a strong correlation between a large and active social media following and real world events like strong debate performances. This indicates that social analytics may be predictive analytics.

If you're a data scientist, social media professional, or inquisitive TechRepublic reader we'd love your ideas on how to inspect campaign social media data. Please leave a comment below or ping us on Twitter @TechRepublic.

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About Dan Patterson

Dan is a Senior Writer for TechRepublic. He covers cybersecurity and the intersection of technology, politics and government.

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