September 7, 2015

Data Visualization in Politics | What’s the deal?

Data visualization is becoming more and more important in every domain within society: medical technology, energy, finance. You name it. But what about politics?

When it comes to studying politics, we are facing a large corpus of various kinds of data. How do we leverage on all that information?[1] The era of Google documents or Excel spreadsheets is over. Or at least it should be.

But let’s imagine now that you are campaigning. Whether you’re communicating with politicians or you’re addressing voters and supporters, placing data at the core of communication is crucial. If you also visualize it, then you are set to getting the best results.

Reason No. 1: get to know your voters and your society. Understand them.

Whether you’re a mayor, a senator or a president, you need to understand the people you represent. The raw data that you have access to will help you enrich your campaign and strategize accordingly.

Imagine mapping districts or regions with voters classified by race, political orientation or ethnicity. By placing census data into a visual, coherent form you will be able to get a clear overview of your electorate and structure your campaign in a more efficient way.

Which takes us to Reason No. 2: Organize your resources, actions and overall campaign effectively.

So you’ve set your targets. You know who your voters are or at least know more about them. It’s time to reach out to your supporters both on an online & offline level. Again, imagine having the possibility of charting all your actions: in which area you had meetings with your voters, what areas were engaged through e-mail campaigns and so on. Aggregate all the data into one place and you are ready to decide on the next campaign steps. It’s important to think things ahead.

Reason No. 3: Transcend targeting & political boundaries.

Visualizing data in very specific areas (like districts or circumscriptions) will give you a roadmap to your desired targets. Targeting individual voters or supporters will no longer be a matter of walking around in the dark, but a question of whether you are willing to finally improve your targeting strategy or not. The decision of integrating data will give you the opportunity to explore targets in a timely and effective manner.

Reason No. 4: Boost your overall political strategy.

We said in the beginning of the article that data visualization is useful for political campaigns, but we’ve only discussed bits and pieces of what it could do. Imagine being at a turning point in your campaign. A dead-end moment can be unlocked easily if you have the vision of your entire campaign, what’s been done or what has been missed. Visualizations give you a vivid & clear image of your accomplishments, what’s next and how efficient you’ve been up until this point. Backing everything up by powerful data will help you enrich your campaign in ways you’ve never thought about. All it takes is knowing what do with the information that you collect throughout your political endeavor.

The list of reasons on why data visualization is becoming so important for politics can go on and on. We focused on these four main points, but there are infinitely more instances in which visualized data makes a difference. Just keep in mind that in an era where things change with the speed of light, so is the amount of information becoming larger & larger. Political communication in the digital era needs to be structured & powerful. And data visualization is here to show you how it must be done.

Knowledge is power. And if this was not convincing enough, imagine if your opponent does it first.

[1] Andrei Zinovyev, Data Visualization in political and social sciences, Institut Curie, Paris, p. 1.


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