Big Data

Gallery: The future impact of big data in politics

Issue: Opposed to Muslim Ban - L2 Data

In the wake of the presidential election many Democrats who relied on big data to predict big wins were despondent. "We were wrong," said one Democratic strategist on condition of anonymity. "We were overconfident and need to completely rethink our models. But let me say that again: We need to rethink our models, and not the use of data."

Paul Westcott, Director of Marketing and Communications for L2 Political, cheerfully agrees. Big data was the big winner of the 2016 election, and the industry is booming. "The data industry has been heavily scrutinized. In fact, because of greater processing, the availability of more data sources, and better feedback loops, the political data industry performed well," Westcott said. "I can say that with certainty because our data was used by hundreds of down ballot races but also by every presidential primary contestant, either through their PAC or the campaign directly."

SEE: Quick glossary: Big data (Tech Pro Research)

Big data is L2's core competency. The company has a 40-year legacy of providing data for political and enterprise clients. L2's database contains key data points about more than 240 consumers, including demographic and geographic information, voting history political affiliation, likely household income and spending habits, and media market. Data is visualized using the Bing API with HaystaqDNA, allowing clients to zoom in to see individual data or zoom out to see a macro-profile of a region or the entire country. Consumer records are exportable in common file formats like CSV and XLS.

Though the Clinton campaign was often associated with big data sophistication, the Trump campaign also bought data from L2 and other data vendors. "The Trump campaign tapped data and analytics firms," Westcott said, "to micro-target individuals by building complex turnout models and using predictive analytics. Many believe the Trump campaign was purely an earned media machine that won because of tweets and TV appearances. In both the primary and general, predictive models were heavily used by the Trump team to target and speak to 'likely Trump voters.'"

WATCH: Documentary shows information revolution of big data (CBS News)

Data accessibility was one of the biggest innovations of the 2016 presidential campaign, Westcott said. Historically, cutting edge technologies have been out of reach for small businesses and small campaigns alike. This cycle, market demand for sophisticated voter-targeted technology brought the cost of data tools down. "We worked with many campaigns with districts of under 50,000 voters... for digital, mail, email, phone, and other targeting. Meaning, city council races determined outreach based on [data] models focused on the economy, environment, immigration, and dozens of other [issues]."

Big data innovations that played out in the political cycle, Westcott said, will have a big impact on the private sector in 2017 and 2018. "We're expecting the even greater use of predictive models... for digital advertising, social media targeting, and in all traditional outreach," he said. "Political ad tech has been a heavily partisan industry. That will change in the 2018 cycle as political ad buyers start looking for a market-based solution instead of a party-based solution."

L2 gave TechRepublic access to election and issue-related data maps. Use the green arrows above to scroll between images or use the left and right arrow keys.

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Image: L2 Political

About Dan Patterson

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