According to reports in the American media, Donald Trump is ignoring Big Data and going with his gut feelings, his instincts and unbelievable audacity in his bid to win the US presidential elections later this year.
Now there’s a surprise.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is apparently keenly interested in the insights that data analytics can deliver, and the Democratic Party is said to be using them for microtargeting her potential voters.
Trump, of course, is running for the Republican Party, which seems to have become known for its anachronistic view of the world, and its varying levels of hostility towards any technology newer than the musket.
Trump being a businessman — and one who likes to brag about his success as often as possible — you might imagine that he would be interested in the insights Big Data can provide. But, according to quotes he gave to Associated Press, Trump thinks personality matters much more than data science.
“Obama got the votes much more so than his data processing machine,” Trump told AP, as reported by Mic.com. “And I think the same is true with me.”
It’s been reported that Trump doesn’t use advisors very much, preferring to rely on his ability to work stuff out on his own. He has huge self-belief, but magazines like Salon.com routinely lambast him for what would be, as they see it, his “disastrous” presidency and label some of his policies “idiocy”. In fact, much of the media attacks him.
If data scientists were in charge of Trump’s campaign, such vilification in the media would surely not go unanswered — the metrics simply would not allow it. But Trump seems to thrive on it, and apparently even encourages it.
And by most accounts, Trump is leading in the opinion polls. What kind of metrics can possibly explain that?
Current US President Barack Obama was said to have used data analytics to unprecedented levels during both his 2008 and 2012 presidential election campaigns. And it’s likely that his would-be successor, Hillary Clinton, will do the same.
Clinton herself seems to have picked up an image of someone not totally comfortable with some aspects of new technology, famously getting into a muddle with her email server backups. But perhaps that’s a little unfair, as many of us might have accidentally deleted thousands of our own emails or done something even more stupid, although not many of us are in the upper echelons of the US government.
In any case, Clinton herself does not need to be personally au fait with any technology at all — just needs to be able to understand what her geeks are telling her and make decisions based on the information she is receiving.
And Clinton’s geeks do seem to be a cut above the rest — alpha geeks if you will.
According to a report in Forbes.com, the Clinton geeks have taken to something called “microtargeting”, which is more or less as it sounds — look at each and every voter in detail and work out specific strategies aimed at them.
It would’ve been interesting to see an all-metrics-blazing showdown between Republican geeks and Democrat geeks, to go along with the compelling contest between Clinton, who would be the first female US president in history, and Trump, who would be the first US president in history who got to the White House by saying all the wrong things and enjoying it.
However, since Trump seems to have dispensed with virtually all professional political advice — recently even sacking his campaign manager — we are more likely to see a contest between the Big Data Goliath of the Democrats on the one side, and Trump playing the David character on the other, hurling out verbal slingshots ranging from the merely controversial to the outright preposterous — and all with a totally straight face.
Having said that, Trump is nothing if not in tune with a certain mood within the electorate, and perhaps real-time data analytics would be of more interest to him.
Ultimately, however, it’s difficult to believe that Trump, Clinton or anyone else could get to the White House without using Big Data analytics of some description or other.