How the Big Red Machine became the big data machine: Delacourt

As someone who likes playing with and analyzing data, found Delacourt’s recounting of how the Liberals became the most data savvy political party interesting:

The Console, with its maps and myriad graphs and numbers, was the most vivid evidence of how far the Liberal party had come in its bid to play catch-up in the data war with its Conservative and NDP rivals. Call it Trudeau 2.0. Just as the old Rainmaker Keith Davey brought science to the party of Trudeau’s father in the 1960s and 1970s, the next generation of Trudeau Liberalism would get seized with data, science and evidence in a big way, too.

And in the grand tradition of Davey, Allan Gregg and all the other political pollsters and marketers who went before them, this new squad of strategists set about dividing Canada’s electoral map into target ridings, ranked according to their chances of winning in them. In a 21st-century-style campaign, though, the distinctions would be far more sophisticated than simply “winnable” and “unwinnable” ridings. Trudeau’s Liberals divided the nation’s 338 electoral districts into six types, named for metals and compounds: platinum, gold, silver, bronze, steel and wood.

Platinum ridings were sure bets: mostly the few dozen that the Liberals had managed to keep in the electoral catastrophe of 2011. Gold ridings were not quite that solid, but they were the ones in which the party strategists felt pretty certain about their prospects. Silver ridings were the ones the Liberals would need to gain to win the election, while bronze ridings, the longer shots, would push them into majority government territory. Steel ridings were ones they might win in a subsequent election, and wood ridings were the ones where the Liberals probably could never win a seat, in rural Alberta for instance.

The Console kept close track of voter outreach efforts on the ground, right down to the number of doorsteps visited by volunteers and what kind of information they had gathered from those visits — family size, composition, political interests, even the estimated age of the residents. By consulting the Console, campaigners could even figure out which time of day was best for canvassing in specific neighbourhoods or which voters required another visit to seal the deal.

When the Liberal team unveiled the Console to Trudeau, he was blown away. He told his team that it was his new favourite thing. He wanted regular briefings on the contents of the program: where it showed the Liberal party ahead, and where fortunes were flagging and volunteers needed to do more door-knocking. Actually, he wondered, why couldn’t he be given access to the Console himself, so that he could consult it on his home computer or on his phone while on the road?

And that, Trudeau would say later, was the last he ever saw of the Console. “My job was to bring it back, not on the analysis side, but on the connection side — on getting volunteers to go out, drawing people in, getting people to sign up,” Trudeau said. Clearly he was doing something right on that score — Liberal membership numbers had climbed from about 60,000 to 300,000 within Trudeau’s first 18 months as leader.

Volunteers for the party would learn — often to their peril — that the leader was fiercely serious about turning his crowd appeal into useful data. Trudeau wasn’t known for displays of temper, but the easiest way to provoke him was to fall down on the job of collecting data from the crowds at campaign stops. Few things made Trudeau angrier, for instance, than to see Liberal volunteers surrounding him at events instead of gathering up contact information. “That was what I demanded. If they wanted a visit from the leader they had to arrange that or else I’d be really upset,” Trudeau said.

Source: How the Big Red Machine became the big data machine | Toronto Star

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: