Poli Sci Profs Say Poli Sci Wizardry Didn’t Help Obama In 2012 After All


Ryan Enos and Anthony Fowler have a new paper out that tries to figure out if the Obama campaign’s widely reported techno-wizardry in the 2012 election really produced a big get-out-the-vote advantage over Mitt Romney. Apparently not:

The Obama campaign of 2012 has been championed as the most technologically-sophisticated, evidence-based campaign in history while the Romney campaign was more traditional. Does this difference manifest itself in the data? Did the technological sophistication of the Obama campaign lead their GOTV efforts to be significantly more effective than Romney’s?

…. [Our] analysis, while admittedly crude, allows us to roughly compare the effectiveness of the Obama and Romney campaigns in mobilizing their respective supporters. Despite the technological sophistication of the Obama campaign and its devotion to a data-driven, evidence-based campaign, we see similar mobilization effects on both sides of Figure 2. It appears that the two campaigns were roughly comparable in their ability to turn out supporters.

Logic and conventional wisdom suggest that you should concentrate your GOTV effort on strong partisans, since these are the people most likely to vote for you. These are the voters Enos and Fowler analyze, and they conclude that both campaigns mobilized strong partisans about as well. Strongly organized precincts showed a 7 percent improvement in turnout on both sides.

Now, it could well be that the Obama campaign spent more money on GOTV and was thus able to influence more voters. It’s also possible that Obama was able to perform sophisticated targeting that went beyond just the most rabid partisans. So take this with a grain of salt. But if Enos and Fowler are right, the poli-sci-driven rocket science of the Obama campaign didn’t actually make much difference. The core GOTV efforts of both campaigns were about equally effective.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.