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Big Data and the General Election

28 April, 2015

General Election Big DataTechnology has infiltrated almost every aspect of our lives and the General Election is not exempt. With the upcoming vote on the horizon, we look at how big data will play a role in influencing the result.

"In previous elections it was the spin doctors and the media that influenced the election outcome," explains Mark Morley, Director of Industry at software solutions group OpenText. "Perhaps in 2015 it will be the data scientists who have the most influence."

Using data to target receptive audiences

Gone are the days of random door-to-door campaigning. This election, data analyst engines will be revealing a wealth of demographic details to party activists. This will allow them to target the most responsive areas to maximise their efforts.  

“Political parties have learnt that it is not just how you gather and archive information that counts, but how you use it to develop an action plan and strategy," says Morley.

Communicating with the masses

While in the past data has been used to gather information about voters, this is the first year politicians are really harnessing its potential for communicating with the masses. Cue dynamic Facebook and Twitter profiles from leading party members wanting to upkeep a presence in the ‘social’ scene. We may not use social media to cast a vote but it is a platform where Brits can receive, and respond to election news. Parties can also use sites to gain intelligence on public views, polls, opinions and reactions.

"Data has been used for decades to understand voters' preferences and habits, though this is the first time political parties are using it in earnest to communicate," explains Jed Mole, European Marketing Director at Acxiom.

The analytical engines of choice

Interestingly, each political party has its own preferences when it comes to analytical engines. The Lib Dems have chosen Contact Creator, the Labour party has selected Voter ID while the Tories count on Merlin. Using raw data drawn from the Mosaic database of UK demographics, the analytical engines calculate the probability of individual voters choosing particular parties. It’s far more in-depth than previous tools and represents a new layer of analytics for British politics. Unsurprisingly, it originates from US shores and is backed by the runaway success of the data driven 2012 presidential election.

main parties

"Mosiac was one of the first segmentation classifications in the UK," says Mole. "Individuals, regardless of whether they are voters, are now far more complex and need to be understood and communicated to on an individual level."

With both parties and voters embracing big data, tech buffs are certain that this year will play host to the first General Election which is decisively influenced by analytics. 

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