Politics is changing and political campaign strategy needs to change with it. The status quo of elder statesmen standing in front of Parliament holding forth on a topic of in the national interest is no longer relevant in 2017. Today’s politics is about activism, community building and “selfies”, in a digital landscape that changes in real-time, the old political frameworks have been quickly grafted onto something entirely new.
This digital landscape is one where always being online is crucial. Miss a tweet or comment? Prepare to risk the wrath of today’s online mob. Gone are the days of party rallies, time to react and consider breaking news, and only seeing voters at election time.
Voter targeting, in terms of understanding voter demographics, holding information on individual voters, and in being able to deliver targeted messages to these voters has become very big business. Data science is being applied to the vast quantities of data that is collected on individuals by social media companies, to specialist voter data vendors.
Conversely, data privacy, as a result of these changes is becoming a key feature of the digital landscape. With the arrival of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU in 2018, voter data will be required to be held securely, opted-in to, and be subject to much greater scrutiny and fines for misuse.
At a broader level, there has been a disintegration of traditional voting blocs such as Left and Right and the rise of populist figures in national elections. Unpredictability has been a key feature of elections with pollsters struggling to keep up with the speed of changing voter moods. Witness the collapse of a 20 point lead in the polls for the Conservative Party in last month’s election in the UK. This took place over the course of six weeks, something that was unheard of up until now, and was driven by social media while sidelining traditional media who were left playing catch-up.
Politics is changing. It has become a very fast moving landscape where data science is how politicians understand their electorate and social media is how the electorate understand their politicians. As the next few years bring political technology into the mainstream, politicians will have the opportunity to catch up with these changes and begin to get on top of their political campaign strategy.
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