Best Practice

Business Intelligence and US Presidential Elections

Data driven analytics and elections have always gone hand in hand, but while polling and focus groups are still important, big data, social media and business intelligence are equally important components in modern campaigns.

These tools were a contributing factor which helped Barack Obama get re-elected to the White House in 2012 and are expected to play a big part in the presidential elections in 2016.


In the lead up to the 2012 election, the Obama campaign had one distinct advantage, access to its 2008 election data which gave them detailed information about voters.

The Obama campaign employed a large number of data scientists and analysts, and they used a tool called ‘Dashboard’, which was described as an ‘online organising community’.

This gave people canvassing access to information about a person’s voting history and their donation history, allowing them to tailor their door to door message to each individual.

On a more macro level data scientists working with marketing professionals at campaign headquarters used this data to help craft initial email campaigns. The responses fed back into canvassing, as well as helping them hone all future communications.

More complex research also revealed patterns amongst the electorate, such as which demographics were more willing to donate and which celebrities appealed to them.

The 2012 campaign combined demographic elements in creative ways, such as offering people on the west coast of America the opportunity to have dinner with George Clooney at a reception to support President Obama.

A similar dinner contest with Sarah Jessica Parker ran on the east coast and both competitions appeared in targeted communications, via email campaigns, TV adverts, direct mailshots, targeted online advertising and through social media channels to reach as many people as possible.

This is just one of many creative projects that used the available data in an innovative manner to communicate effectively to the right group of people.

Data Driven Analytics

The number of data scientists and analysts hired for the 2012 campaign was five times larger than that of the 2008 campaign, another indication of how critical data driven analytics has become in just a few years.

After the 2012 campaign organisers revealed some of the methods they used to improve upon their previous successes and tackle their weaknesses from the 2008 campaign.

One weakness from 2008 was that their data was held in a range of databases. Field workers, fundraisers, polling information and other information was all over the place. It meant people were working off different lists and different groups never shared information.

For the 2012 campaign they combined all data into one huge system, bringing all databases together for better analytics.

This BI dashboard approach enabled them to perform more in-depth analysis, drilling down into the data, and even using it to make predictions.

They allowed them to customise their approach to voters on a state by state basis, such as carefully tailoring the messaging for difficult swing states.

Looking ahead to the 2016 presidential campaign predictions are being made as to the amount that will be spent on advertising across all media platforms.

A huge figure of $6 billion was spent in 2012, making it the most expensive campaign in history. With the considerable growth of social media in the last five years, it’s expected even more money will be spent on data analytics and crafting tailored communication and advertising to voters.

Savvy candidates will look to mirror the successes of the Obama campaign teams by utilising all big data available as well as modern analytical tools to help them navigate through the vast amounts of information.

Written by Zandra

Zandra is the co-founder and CEO of Panintelligence. She not only drives the product and the Sales Team forward but is also instrumental in evolving the innovative culture of Panintelligence. When Zandra isn’t in the office she can be found with her family, as well as painting, running, and leading her Leeds Lean in Ladies Circle. Basically, she never stops.

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