Which Will Win in 2014: Data or Demographics?


We’ve talked before about the key question in American politics in 2014: will this year’s electorate look more like the people who elected droves of Republicans in 2010 or those who reelected Barack Obama in 2012? Democrats are working hard to make sure it’s the latter, though so far the results aren’t showing up in most polls. Here’s another way to think about the question: will data win the election, or will demographics?

Republicans are clearly hoping it’s the latter, since their voters — older and whiter — are primed to show up in November in large numbers. Democrats’ hopes of changing that situation hinge in large part on data, since their campaigns, party organizations and outside groups are relying on data-driven message targeting and field organizing to identify, reach and motivate their supporters. It worked in 2012, it worked (in Virginia) in 2013, but will it work in 2014?

In large part, it will depend on factors outside their immediate control, since even the best turnout operation is usually only good for a few percentage points in the actual vote total. External factors like the economy, the President’s standing and the ever-amorphous “national mood” are critical…and impossible to change by even the hardest local campaigning. So far things don’t look good for Dems on that front, but we’re still many months away from the actual election. If Dems can turn the national narrative around even by a small amount, margins will be close enough that their data-driven campaigning can swing some tight races. If not, no amount of field outreach will make a difference. Data vs. demographics? Remember, it’s only the country’s future that’s on the line….

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