Thursday, April 17, 2008

Politics: There's No "I" in "DIG"

What do sports, politics and DIG have in common? Well, of course, it’s prediction markets. There’s Protrade, and Tradesports and the Iowa Electronic Markets and, well, Las Vegas itself, kind of. But thinking across to the other themes of the conference, the similarities disappear. Much has been said and written about the use of data and analytics in sports (Moneyball,,, but the closest most politicos get to analysis is focus groups, commissioned polls and a cornucopia (or is it hodgepodge?) of cognitive biases (“we need to focus on ‘soccer moms!’”).

In the last few years, some individuals and organizations have begun to make a dent in this space; notably among them Get Out the Vote: How to Increase Voter Turnout by a couple of Yale professors who base their recommendations on actual research. More recently, Brendan Nyhan at Duke reports on his blog the founding of “The Analyst Institute,” which states as its mission “for all voter contact to be informed by evidence-based best practices. To ensure that the progressive community becomes more effective with every election, we facilitate and support organizations in building evaluation into their election plans.”

It’s not as if there isn’t incentive to win, and it’s not as if there’s a lack of interested funding. So why is politics behind the curve on data and analytics? Is there a rational (or irrational) belief that politics need to be managed by gut? Or are there structural reasons? Or am I mistaken in thinking politics is late to the game, and that McCain is hiding the next Billy Beane somewhere on the Straight Talk Express?

No comments: