Unleashing the Potential of Big Data for Political Campaigns

In recent years, election campaigns have been increasingly taking advantage of emerging technologies such as Big Data and Artificial Intelligence to drive their success.
  • Technology

Emerging technologies – Big data, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Deepfakes, Analytics, and more – have spread their influence across diverse industries. In recent years, multiple domains leveraged these trends to reap benefits. One such example is – political campaigns.

Sounds strange? As a matter of fact, the political arena has long been using analytics to drive its campaigns. However, the trend has become more pronounced in the last few years, with election campaigns capitalizing on technology to bring desired results.

big data screened face

In this article, we delve into what are emerging technologies, their role and importance in political campaigns, factors to consider in these campaigns, what the future holds, and more. This blog, Unleashing the potential of big data, will inform you about the power of modern technologies and how they can influence political campaigns by analyzing data streams.

Let’s get started.

Understanding emerging technologies - AI & Big Data: An Overview

Big data and artificial intelligence hold enormous potential to harness and positively impact political campaign outcomes. Data is not important; it is critical. That said, data needs to be collected, cleaned, analyzed, summarised, and presented in a consumable format.

Only then can the stakeholders (political leaders etc.) glean meaningful insights and arrive at informed decisions. Big data is a stream that deals with these aspects wherein huge volumes of raw data are cleansed and analyzed to make them ready for deriving actionable outcomes.

Artificial intelligence, on the other hand, helps automate the mundane and repetitive tasks performed manually by humans. AI chatbots offer the services of replying to the simple queries of users, thereby cutting down the costs of employing a human to do the task. Artificial intelligence and Machine learning use complex statistical and mathematical algorithms which analyze large amounts of data and identify trends or patterns from them.

These help in understanding the behavior of variables involved while developing a model to train. In addition, predictive analytics is used to study historical data and recognize patterns based on which future trends are forecasted.

Importance of big data in political campaigns

Similar to various realms, the political and election campaign space also find great applications of big data, AI, and more. Let’s understand what are the ways the campaigns have benefited from these technologies.

Engaging with Voters

AI and analytics can be used to build a relationship with voters and acquaint them with the political situation in the country. AI and ML algorithms analyze voter data and help in crafting unique behavioral and psychographic profiles based on their social media patterns, online behavior, and more. Using the data on these profiles created, the political parties can plan targeted campaigns that could reach individual voters and encourage them to vote for the party that meets their expectations.

A Statista research indicates that nearly 388 million USD out of a total of 700 million USD spent on political digital advertising were into the Google and Facebook channels.

Swing States

Recognizing the Swing States

A swing state refers to a state where two political parties have comparable support from the categories of voters. In such scenarios, various types of data like polling data, voter data, and sentiment analysis of users on various social media like Twitter play a significant role in deciding the victory of a party.

These are special chances to gain the constituency votes, and therefore, the political factions focus their campaigning efforts more in these states. So, how does big data help? Well, analytics is leveraged to interpret and draw meaningful insights on the various datasets relating to voter data, voter sentiments, and more. These are then used to devise strategies to plan for the win of the respective political party.

Political Marketing

Political experts analyze the patterns using AI and data analytics to study the trends of their voter base across various states in the country. Based on the insights gained, they use appropriate channels of marketing, such as offline sources, including billboards, TV promotions, and online media as well.

Data-driven Election Campaigns

Big data and AI contribute significantly to formulating and executing data-driven campaigns which are more voter-centric. AI chatbots interact with voters and elicit their responses to various ideologies. Data gathered from various sources on voter preferences, interests, and pain points lets political parties formulate an effective communications strategy. For example, the ideas of a section of voters on reservation for an underprivileged group could be used to address their concerns and thus win their confidence.

Factors to Consider for Political Campaigns to use big data and other technologies

There are certain integral factors to take into account when political organizations aim to make the best use of emerging technologies. Some of these include

Clarity on objectives

While technology tools offer multiple benefits, the true potential can be unlocked only when political agencies are clear on their goals. Only unambiguous objectives can indicate which data is relevant and which isn’t for the campaign in question. Spending too much time, effort, and resources in gathering a huge volume of data points that don’t address the concerns will render the campaign worthless. Data processing and applications of AI need well-defined goals to serve the purpose effectively.

Availability of Resources

Political campaigns run for a short duration, which means they are akin to start-up companies. All they intend to achieve is subject to the availability of adequate cash or funds that can be allocated to that activity. That said, political groups need to accordingly decide on their goals and priorities, which is essentially fuelled by a well thought-out strategy.

Some of the aspects they need to determine to include how much campaigning to get the message out is required on the day of the election, hiring necessary staff and people to perform different tasks, and in local elections, it could imply door-to-door canvassing, etc.

In certain elections, such as the state or federal, there might arise the need to understand from which areas voters are more likely to respond to the messages, which means the cash flow from these regions needs to be studied and analyzed. This could again call for hiring professionals who deeply understand technologies like predictive analytics. In a nutshell, the main decision is with regard to the allocation of funds, which can also be delved into using analytics.

Data Sources

Polls are crucial for political campaigns, and so are the polling data. That said, polling data have long been used for winning campaigns. Poll data lets candidates know which constituencies they are leading, by how many votes they are lagging behind other candidates, and more.

However, the drawback is that polls only offer snapshots of crucial moments before the election time rather than providing a detailed big picture of the complete cycle. If these data are collected and analyzed in periods close to election day, they can impart relatively more predictive results.

In the past, census data, voter histories, and other demographics were used as inputs to make logical and data-driven decisions.

In recent years, with the proliferation of technologies, political parties have used Google trends or other tools to understand and analyze individual voter sentiments and target those who would be interested to support the campaign.

In addition, the data from the text and emails sent to various constituencies can be better studied, and more useful insights may be gleaned on the voter mindsets by exploring their social media activity. It’s quite apparent that compared to the past, there’s been a growth in the number of ways voter or poll data can be collected, analyzed, and interpreted.

The technology side

Quite often, the use of analytics in corporates and in political campaigns are compared. While the technology’s principles and applications remain almost similar, political campaigns are still a different ballgame altogether. That’s because campaigns last only for a short period; you make it or break it. That said, investing in large analytics software packages like Qlik, SAS, etc., which companies widely deploy, sounds illogical. These solutions won’t gel well with an election or political campaign as their pricing is on the higher side. Likewise, it doesn’t make sense for political campaigns to go for cloud storage or such as with AWS or Microsoft Azure.

There is another aspect to consider. While companies have their in-house, well-trained team of data scientists and analysts, political campaigns with a limited budget cannot afford a permanently staffed group of data science experts. Well, that doesn’t imply that political campaigns cannot use emerging technologies. They certainly can and are using software in the US, UK, and various countries worldwide. Political campaigns are, in fact, one of the innovative categories that deploy big data to unlock its potential.

Another facet is the use of AI and deepfakes technology in election campaigns. While we explored their benefits in the initial sections, there are some downsides as well. For example, in 2016, Microsoft launched an AI Twitter chatbot, “conversational understanding” which they thought would engage well with people and improve the voter base. On the contrary, Microsoft soon realized that the bot was already being manipulated by Twitter users. The AI chatbot “Tay” started pouring in racist comments, thereby acting controversially to what was expected.

Likewise, what if someone makes deepfakes of the U.S. President or some other leader of a country, which could spread a massive outrage everywhere? Yes, there are instances. A YouTube channel, Sassy Justice, created and uploaded a comically impersonated former U.S. President Donald Trump portraying him to be telling an idiotic story about a reindeer.

Another instance of a political-analytics scandal is Cambridge Analytica which had claimed that it only collected 30 million Facebook user profiles. However, Facebook later confirmed that it had information on nearly 87 million user profiles. It added that out of these, 70.6 million user profiles were from the United States.

Future of Technology in Politics

Australian Parliament


AI and Big data have been in use in the political space for over a decade. When it comes to political campaigns, data, yes – accurate data is crucial. Wrong data or incorrect analyses could be a potential game-changer for the rival candidate. Besides, the application of advanced technologies like natural language processing and no-code process automation have contributed significantly.

These trends obviate the need for hiring data science professionals, thereby cutting down the expenditure which otherwise must be incurred by political analysts. The core challenge lies in cleaning the data and eliminating the inconsistencies to make it more accessible to various levels – local, regional, and upper – in the campaigns.

A key initiative in this direction is to bridge the gap between political experts and analytics experts by helping people emerge as “political analytics experts” who are at an intersection of politics and analytics. Such professionals would understand the nuances of political strategies while smartly applying the techniques of data analytics.

Wrapping Up

Technology always results in transformation – small or big. The emerging trends of big data, AI, and ML hold the immense potential to completely revolutionize any domain, political campaign, or election, with no exception. However, while the technology offers countless benefits, we must not overlook certain downsides it brings, such as instances of deepfakes used wrongfully, AI getting manipulated by users, Cambridge Analytica-like cases, and more.

All said and done, political campaigns are a crucial event in any country, and everything, including technology, must be used resourcefully yet in the right manner to achieve the expected outcomes.