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Morning Feature – The Victory Lab (Meta Monday)

November 12, 2012

Morning Feature

Morning Feature – The Victory Lab (Meta Monday)

The resident faculty sent a canvasser to the mail room with a personalized message encouraging us to ponder their topic for the week. Well duh…. (More)

First our thanks to last week’s writers:

On Monday, you shared your stories of offline political activism in Things We Did This Week, addisnana shared the story of One Undecided Voter in Midday Matinee, Dr. F offered The “But for the Grace of God” Principle in Evening Focus, and winterbanyan spotted a New Research Vessel to Probe Arctic in Our Earth.

On Tuesday, we saw The Finish Line in Sight in Morning Feature, readers helped tell Tuesday’s Tale: The Genius House in Midday Matinee, we offered a 2012 Election Results Live-Blog in Evening Focus, and winterbanyan reported on the Pine Beetle Epidemic Fueled by Climate Change in Our Earth.

On Wednesday, we were Celebrating Victory in Morning Feature, the Squirrel delighted that Data Defeats Anecdotes, Gut Feelings in Furthermore!, addisnana offered Thanks to Every Volunteer in Midday Matinee, and Dr. F pondered A Muted Discussion … A Wasted Campaign? in Evening Focus.

On Thursday, we offered An Open Letter to Angry White Men in Morning Feature, triciawyse brought us Fursdai Furries in Midday Matinee, and winterbanyan saw Climate Change Causing Penguin Decline in Our Earth.

On Friday, we asked Will Republicans Unskew Themselves? in Morning Feature, triciawyse shared Frieday Critters in Midday Matinee, and winterbanyan saw Coral Reefs Summon “Bodyguard” Fish in Our Earth.

On the weekend, we doubted the wisdom of “Throw ‘Em an Anvil?” in Saturday’s Morning Feature, Ms. Crissie was asked if we Want Stuff? in Sunday’s Morning Feature, Winning Progressive shared Weekend Reading in Furthermore!, we chuckled at Silly Sunday: Dis Array, Dat Array in Evening Focus, and winterbanyan brought our weekly Eco News Roundup in Our Earth.

Note: Please share your stories of offline political activism in Things We Did This Week.

That leaves only the canvasser sent to the mail room by the resident faculty, as they made their way from the wine cellar library where they spent the weekend drinking thinking on our motto of Magis vinum, magis verum (“More wine, more truth”) to the hot tub faculty lounge for their weekly game where the underwear goes flying planning conference. The canvasser said this:

I know you care about the resident faculty here at BPI, and you try to predict their discussion topics each week. Can we count on you to help try to predict this week’s topic too?

Obviously we said yes, and obviously the canvasser’s presence and message were the clue. Pootie the Precious wondered how the canvasser knew so much about us, until we reminded her that Ms. Scarlet probably reads the Meta Monday Morning Feature each week. It’s public information, after all.

Indeed the clue was so transparent that Ms. Scarlet could have simply told us that this week the resident faculty will look at The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns. From the overview:

Renegade thinkers are crashing the gates of a venerable American institution, shoving aside its so-called wise men and replacing them with a radical new data-driven order. We’ve seen it in sports, and now in The Victory Lab, journalist Sasha Issenberg tells the hidden story of the analytical revolution upending the way political campaigns are run in the 21st century.

The Victory Lab follows the academics and maverick operatives rocking the war room and re-engineering a high-stakes industry previously run on little more than gut instinct and outdated assumptions. Armed with research from behavioural psychology and randomized experiments that treat voters as unwitting guinea pigs, the smartest campaigns now believe they know who you will vote for even before you do. Issenberg tracks these fascinating techniques—which include cutting edge persuasion experiments, innovative ways to mobilize voters, heavily researched electioneering methods—and shows how our most important figures, such as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, are putting them to use with surprising skill and alacrity.

Provocative, clear-eyed and energetically reported, The Victory Lab offers iconoclastic insights into political marketing, human decision-making, and the increasing power of analytics.

The staff agreed this is the resident faculty’s most likely topic, with a probability of 98.6%. Unless Ms. Scarlet loses another button on her blouse. Then our response may rise above 98.6….


Happy Monday!

  • Gardener

    Sounds good to me!

    • NCrissieB

      I hope you enjoy it, Gardener. 🙂

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  • winterbanyan

    This sounds like an important discussion. We need to know all the ways in which we are being manipulated, whether for our own good or not.

    It worked for us progressives this time. It could equally well work against us.

    Looking forward to this!

    • NCrissieB

      I think “manipulation” is a very loaded word for this process. The state-of-the-art voter analytics allow campaigns to identify and assess likely supporters as individuals, rather than by entire precincts, counties, media markets, or demographic blocs. Their data were derived from voter records and other publicly-available databases, with sophisticated calculations that identified each potential voter by likelihood to vote, likelihood to support President Obama, and likely policy concerns. Those were not gut feelings or hunches. OFA spent much of 2011 and early 2012 running comparative field tests to refine their voter models and contact messages.

      In short, if an OFA person called or canvassed you this year – and if you let him/her finish the pitch – you would have heard about the issues that OFA had strong evidence to suggest mattered to you personally, and in language their research suggested would resonate with you personally … in much the same way you might identify and tailor your pitch to specific likely supporters – based on what you know about them as neighbors – if you were running for your local homeowners’ board.

      As an OFA staffer put it, “We ran a national presidential campaign like a local school board race.”

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

      • winterbanyan

        I have no problem with that. The thing is, if the other side is willing to lie (and clearly they are) they can lie in a targeted fashion. That is manipulation.

        That is my only concern.

  • Jim W

    Did analytics do this to Virginia. From Not Larry Sabato:

    Republican drawn districts looked politically tight and precise. When the Congressional Delegation came up with a “unity” map to re-elect the incumbents (8 of 11 are Republican), it again appeared that the GOP had taken the lead in drawing, as the districts were extremely precise in how they had been drawn.

    One precinct which I was watching for on election night this year was the Penn precinct (210) in Prince William County. Penn is a GOP leaning precinct that voted for McCain/Palin by a few points and sits in the Coles magisterial district, which is the district most likely to predict an outcome in Prince William County- the county which has the longest streak of picking statewide winners. In other words, this is ground zero for Virginia politics.

    • NCrissieB

      Out-of-date analytics might well have, Jim. Many state and local Democratic Parties, and many Democratic candidates, still rely on basic statistics from the National Committee for an Effective Congress. Those include a Democratic Performance Index (the average percentage of votes cast for Democratic candidates), Persuadable Voter Index (average percentage of ticket-splitters in each election), and voter turnout profiles for each precinct in each U.S. House District.

      The NCEC’s data use outdated voter information technology. Yes, they can tell you that Precinct 66 is a ‘swing’ precinct: DPI 36-64%, with PVI of, say, 30%.

      But OFA’s data could tell them that 34-year-old Mary Smith of 119 Broad Street was 60% likely to vote and 95% likely to support President Obama, if she gets a personal contact with a message about protecting her access to health care. OFA’s data could also tell them that 32-year-old Liz Jones of 136 Broad Street was almost certain to vote for Mitt Romney if she voted, so leave her be and hope she chooses not to vote or forgets to vote.

      OFA’s data could do that even if the 100 and 200 blocks of Broad Street were in Precinct 19, with a DPI of 26% – solidly Republican – and that there were 12 other likely supporters like Mary Smith in those two blocks.

      An NCEC-based approach would say to leave those blocks of Broad Street (and the entire precinct) alone rather than risk activating voters like Liz Smith and the 74% of others who will vote for Mitt Rommey.

      OFA’s approach would get a dozen or so votes they would otherwise have missed, from those two blocks on Broad Street … and they could and did repeat that for other specific 20- to 35-year-old women in the 100 and 200 blocks Green Street, the 400 block of Maple Avenue, Pond Place, and the other individual likely supporters in Precinct 19 …

      … and across that county, that swing state, and the other swing states.

      Those votes added up to the margins of victory in the swing states, and that process is how President Obama won all but one swing state (North Carolina).

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  • addisnana

    Data is important. The grassroots are also important. I did like knowing why we were being sent to some neighborhoods, as in highly Democratic demographics with historically low turnout. I was fascinated by having to turn in the numbers at certain times throughout the day.

    Rep. Bachmann has had to pay people to put hang tags on people’s doors. She can buy data but she can’t buy love.

    I am looking forward to this discussion!

    • NCrissieB

      The process we’ll discuss is very data-driven in planning … and very grassroots in operation. It’s based on research that suggests voters respond best to personal contacts (what we call Fred Whispering) and that these one-to-one personal contacts can be planned and carried out with every bit as much sophistication as (and to much better effect than) television ads.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::