How Data Science Play A Key Role in The World Largest Festival of Democracy – #Elections2019
Who will win the 2019 General Election? This is the million-dollar question dominating all conversations.
Almost all political parties are focusing on designing campaigns backed by data and analytics. Post its bitter defeat in 2014, even Congress now has joined the data bandwagon to get this right this time around. But the use of data and data analytics is not new in the political arena. The BJP very vociferously used data analytics in the 2014 election to design their campaign. While on a small scale, their agenda was to convert volunteers into voters and the voters into volunteers. We also have the 2012 U.S presidential elections to look at. Here, team Obama used Big Data and analytics to understand, analyze and detail voter sentiment, profile, behavioral patterns and all the relevant factors that would impact their voting.
Why does it make sense to leverage data analytics?
Let’s begin with a simple observation. Nothing about India is simple. Really. Take a look at our country’s geographical context. 7 lakh villages, 600 districts, 36 states, and union territories. In the 2014 General Elections, there were nearly a million polling booths set up. It is in these booths that you get micro information, data, of 600 million voters! These booths also hold the key to understanding how the population voted. Not only is that valuable information, but it is also a veritable goldmine to understand the complex dynamics of our country.
The 2014 elections were where we used data analytics for the first time to change the traditional electioneering techniques. The BJP, for example, used data to design, structure, target, implement, and communicate their campaigns to the masses. With data, they managed to strategically navigate the complexities of demographics, religion, caste and that of politics as well.
So how did data analytics help?
Insight into voter stance
Data analytics in this election helped candidates evaluate and understand voter stance. It gave them insights that helped them tweak their election campaigns. They could micro-target their messages and use the right communication channel to reach out to their voters. The BJP, for example, targeted mobile voters using voice broadcasting. They also used GPS in campaign vans and cookies on their website to harvest information about a user’s internet activity and then use it for customized advertising.
Navigate political campaigns
While the 2014 General Election used datasets were obtained from the Election Commission website, Government websites, for the 2019 election, we are witnessing the use of commissioned data sets from social media platforms and historical electoral records more aggressively. Electoral data is also being used in conjunction with other data such as GIS data, census data, etc. Along with this public data, political parties are also keen on using private data, but of course with consent, to steer their political campaigns.
Real-time data analytics is also becoming a darling of the political circuit. You see, our political parties so far have not had the right vehicle to understand social intelligence. It was primarily driven by the proverbial ‘gut feel’. With data analytics, not only did they get quantified insights into this social intelligence, but real-time data analytics ensured that they got this access on time – proactively. So, whether it was to set the narrative or to change it, real-time analytics could ensure that the political parties did not have to be reactive.
Convince and convert
Data analytics is also helping political parties navigate the curious case of the ‘floating voter’ – the elusive Indian who has not yet made up his/her mind on which candidate to vote for.
With data analytics becoming a part of the main campaign toolkit, the political party could engage with their target group and also have their volunteers focus on converting the undecided voter. Along with this, micro-communication using Internet, mobile, social media could be leveraged to swing this voter.
Data analytics also helps political parties understand the issues faced by the majority of the people. Unemployment, women empowerment, and female education or sanitation, etc. have been some resonating issues faced by the Indian population.
Political parties leveraging data analytics have been able to identify demographic patterns and then design their campaigns around these issues.
Calibrating Social Media wins
Social Media is another medium that is becoming the new political battleground. Take a leaf out of the AAP tremendous success during the Delhi state elections towards the end of 2013, political parties like Congress and BJP also have increased their social footprint.
It only makes sense to do so. It is estimated that India has over 258.27 million social network users in 2019. India also has the second highest number of internet users after China, standing at an estimated 462.12 million in 2019, according to Statista. Implementing data analytics to understand, communicate and convince this huge bank of voters using sentiment and behavioral analysis is a common sense thing to do.
Along with all this, data analytics is also helping the political contenders of this election season assess who election tickets should be given to, who the party should ally with, what should be their stand and positioning and how should they roll out their campaigns and convince voters.
We can consider 2014 to be a watershed moment in Indian politics – be it the rise of Modi-led NDA or the fact that the BJP came to power with an absolute majority for the first time in 30 years. The indelible fact remains that the BJP campaign employed data analytics to micro-target certain voter segments, gather relevant demographic information to develop voter maps and analyze past voter patterns, booth management, etc. to craft messages that appealed to a broader electorate. Data analytics also refurbished advertisements and was leveraged to assess how best to achieve voter engagement.
I believe that data analytics is changing the electoral battlefield. It is introducing new rules. And most political parties are leveraging it for the insights they get. I agree that data in the Indian context can be complex given our country’s diversity. But because the Indian context is so complex and diverse that data can emerge as the ultimate leveler – something that tells the truth as it actually is.