With Polling Problems Growing, Social Data Can Help Candidates Determine Where They Stand

gurmanhundal-politics"AdExchanger Politics" is a weekly column tracking developments in the 2016 political campaign cycle.

Today’s column is written by Gurman Hundal, co-founder of Media iQ.

In the 2016 elections, pollsters have come face-to-face with a unique problem: a very high nonresponse rate. Response rates dropped to 9% in 2012 from 36% in the late 1990s, according to Pew Research, and by now they may have declined even further.

According to Pew Research, response rates sank because it has become more difficult to contact individuals and persuade them to participate in surveys. With polling becoming increasingly unreliable, political candidates should consider other methods that can be used to measure voter attitudes.

Resources such as Twitter conversations and search data offer a treasure trove of real-time data. When analyzed in collaboration with traditional polling and data collection formats and existing databases, it can lead to a much more accurate assessment of attitudes and polling position.

Unlike a phone conversation with a stranger, the opinions expressed on social media are proactive and uninhibited. They not only give a good idea about leading candidates or favorable geographies, but also provide additional information, such as the topics people are interested in, the candidates who have an upper hand around certain topics or conversations or how fast new topics are gaining currency in the conversation of young Americans.

Although research is ongoing into how to accurately deduce vote margins from Twitter conversations, they do offer a good indication of public opinion and related shifts. Observing real-time movement of people’s sentiment can help campaign managers create and fine-tune their strategies.

Role Of Social Media In Digital Strategies

In the 2016 presidential election, it will be crucial for candidates to use technology and data to reach the right audiences with relevant messages on social media, especially when trying to communicate with millennials. The advancements in joining data to communication activation is an ideal opportunity for candidates to understand and connect with voters.

In the case of digital targeting, a number of strategies can be applied. Information from social media can be useful, for example, when creating custom audience segments based on interests, which can then be targeted accordingly. Layering this information with census data can also build compelling geotargeting strategies. Geotargeting can also be based on social data signals received from a region.

There is also an opportunity for contextual targeting, such as choosing domains based on social media conversations to increase the chances of reaching the right audience. But the biggest advantage of social media, which makes it necessary for every campaign manager, is the ability to stay nimble.

Factors that can influence election results are often difficult to pre-empt, such as negative campaigning or some local issue that unexpectedly catches people’s attention. Although a survey can be conducted in posterity, the long turnaround time can prevent a candidate from responding quickly. Also, it does not capture exactly how the sentiments changed over time during the period the event went viral, technically called the inflection point.

Even a flash poll of 100 participants can take as long as seven to eight hours. But listening to social media platforms in real time can shed light on these unexpected developments and identify events, discussions, TV programs or news articles that can potentially impact voters – allowing the candidate to react instantly.

A Treasure Trove Of Data

Real-time dashboards can be built to visually track elections and analyze the profiles of audiences that tweet or leave comments on Facebook about a certain political topic. Campaigns can also track where members of the audience reside, how fast the topic goes viral and which candidates are losing or gaining the most from these conversations.

For example, if an event occurs that sparks discussions on an election issue, candidates and their teams can track the real-time conversation taking place online and attempt to participate in it to make the greatest impact on voters. There is then potential for voters to discuss individual candidates’ thoughts on the issue and hopefully shift the perception of a candidate in a positive way.

For example, a candidate might have a foot-in-mouth moment, yet results from the next set of polls don’t reveal much of an impact on voter perceptions. A spike in negative social media activity, however, may tell a different story, suggesting that more effort to mitigate the fallout is necessary.

A recent Survey Monkey article observed that most polls for the Iowa caucuses were incorrect because they ended too soon. But with social media tracking, opinions can be tracked right up to the moment of counting votes in real time, which could help offset the broken polling system.

Follow Media IQ (@MediaIQDigital) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

 

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