Information operations · Information Warfare

It’s The Analysis, Not Influence, That Won The Past Three Elections


I was just reminded how Obama ran for office in 2008 and then again in 2012. I heard stories about his tremendous database of names and phone numbers, and how he had some great algorithms which told you what to say in speeches in certain areas, what were the key phrases which had to be used, etc. My friends and I work in the influence field, it was talked about frequently, but nobody spoke publicly and certainly not loudly.

Currently, in the news, I am reading about Cambridge Analytica doing precisely the same thing and being castigated for doing exactly the same thing. They did the same exact thing that Obama did in 2008 and2012, only better, with much more data from Facebook.

Politicians have been doing the same thing since whenever politics was invented. What changed or is it part of the same witch hunt launched by the press against Trump? What is the end game? Will analysis of databases of possible voters be banned? Certainly not. Will issue analysis in certain areas be banned? Absolutely not, everybody wants to know what is important in certain areas.

In 2008 and again in 2012, I kept hearing about some powerful database and algorithms in use by the DNC, allowing Obama to win with seeming ease. Now we are seeing that in 2016, Cambridge Analytica allowed Trump to beat the Clinton machine, which was seemingly all-powerful. With all the current hubbub about Cambridge Analytica, I began wondering about the difference. Seemingly there was only analysis of data.

In the articles below, we see an app enabled Obama to gain granularity of issues with a resolution never before seen. From what I have put together, CA did the same in 2016 using Facebook data. The difference is data sharing rules were seemingly broken in 2016.

Let’s talk influence for a second. CA and SCL Group are in the business of winning elections. The Obama campaigns of 2008 and 2012, as well as the Trump campaign of 2016, seemed dependent on the candidate addressing hot point issues, seemingly influencing voters. All this within a maelstrom of articles, news, tweets, and posts to which we will probably be immune to by 2020. Do we see anything else emerging as an emerging influencer?

Standing back, looking at the 220-mile high picture, it seems apparent that nobody is going to be allowed to use Facebook type data again. The tactic used by Obama in 2012 seems to be the only remaining legal tactic, a stand-alone app, but it needs very widespread use. Also, it was analysis, not influence, that won the elections. Analysis enabled the speeches to be tailored to the audiences, ‘influencing’ voters by giving the voters what they wanted to hear.

As for 2020, I’m wondering what will be the hot new app or will someone develop a true means of influencing the voters?

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