Data and Democracy

How Political Data Science Is Shaping the 2016 Elections

Data and Democracy

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The 2016 US elections will be remembered for many things, but for those who work in politics, 2016 may be best remembered as the year that the use of data in politics reached its maturity. Through a collection of essays from leading experts in the field, this report explores how political data science helps to drive everything from overall strategy and messaging to individual voter contacts and advertising.

Curated by Andrew Therriault, former Director of Data Science for the Democratic National Committee, this illuminating report includes first-hand accounts from Democrats, Republicans, and members of the media. Tech-savvy readers will get a comprehensive account of how data analysis has prevailed over political instinct and experience, along with examples of the challenges these practitioners face.

Essays include:

  • The Role of Data in Campaigns—Andrew Therriault, former Director of Data Science for the Democratic National Committee
  • Essentials of Modeling and Microtargeting—Dan Castleman, cofounder and Director of Analytics at Clarity Campaign Labs, a leading modeler in Democratic politics
  • Data Management for Political Campaigns—Audra Grassia, Deputy Political Director for the Democratic Governors Association in 2014, now leads political engagements at Civis Analytics
  • How Technology Is Changing the Polling Industry—Patrick Ruffini, cofounder of Echelon Insights and Founder/Chairman of Engage, was a digital strategist for President Bush in 2004 and for the Republican National Committee in 2006
  • Data-Driven Media Optimization—Alex Lundry, cofounder and Chief Data Scientist at Deep Root Analytics, a leading expert on media and voter analytics, electoral targeting, and political data mining
  • How (and Why) to Follow the Money in Politics—Derek Willis, ProPublica’s news applications developer, formerly with The New York Times
  • Digital Advertising in the Post-Obama Era—Daniel Scarvalone, Associate Director of Research and Data at Bully Pulpit Interactive (BPI), a digital marketer for the Democratic party
  • Election Forecasting in the Media—Natalie Jackson, Senior Polling Editor at The Huffington Post

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Andrew Therriault

Andrew Therriault was the Democratic National Committee's Director of Data Science from 2014 to 2016, leading a team which developed voter targeting models and other analytic tools used by thousands of Democratic campaigns.

Therriault has spent the past decade working on all types of political data as both a researcher and practitioner, and he received his PhD in political science from New York University in 2011. He was recently appointed as the City of Boston’s first-ever Chief Data Officer, leading a team which applies many of these same techniques to local government.