The JHU Center for Advanced Governmental Studies held a presidential debate viewing party last night to watch the final debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Adjunct faculty members, Robert Guttman and Matt Laslo, held a "pregame" debate discussion, sharing their insights, while students also introduced themselves and shared their predictions at the outset. There was enough time before the building closed to share concluding thoughts about how the debate went. It was a lot of fun and sometimes... painful, but there was plenty of good company (and pizza) to share the whole experience with!
The most recent meeting of the Government Analytics Breakfast forum featured Dr. Vanessa Perez, a lecturer with the MS in Government Analytics program and expert on voting and elections. Dr. Perez's talk, How the 2016 Campaigns Use (and Don't Use) Data, examined the ways in which political campaigns rely on data to shape their mobilization and persuasion strategies.
Dr. Perez began by discussing the types of datasets historically and currently available to parties and campaigns. Following the implementation of the Help America Vote Act (2002), voter data files have become much cleaner, richer and accessible. Campaigns can now access individual-level datasets that include (depending on the state) voters' names, addresses, race, party identification and turnout history. These datasets, merged with widely available consumer data, provide campaigns with tremendous predictive power when identifying existing and potential supporters.
One of the chief uses of data by campaigns is the identification of "persuadables" -- individuals who might be convinced to support the candidate if targeted with the right message. If the state provides party ID data, campaigns will often target self-identified independents who have voted in prior elections (as the strongest predictor of whether someone will vote in a current election is his/her turnout history). If the state does not provide party ID data, campaigns will try to identify persuadables using other variables, such as citizens' neighborhood characteristics.
In the 2016 election, both the Trump and Clinton campaigns have embraced data-driven strategies, though in different ways and to different degrees. While the Clinton campaign has built off the strategy and infrastructure developed by the Obama campaigns, Trump has implemented a "radically different strategy for a radically different candidate." Rather than targeting habitual voters, the Trump campaign is focused on new voters -- voters who have a high likelihood of supporting Trump but may not have voted consistently (if at all) in the past. The election results and exit poll data will provide insight into the effectiveness of the candidates' strategies.
Many thanks to Dr. Perez for fascinating and enlightening talk.
You can view the full presentation here.
We're delighted to be holding a viewing tomorrow of Frame by Frame, a wonderful documentry about the power of photojournalism in Afghanistan. One of our very own alum, Baktash Ahadi was an associate producer and translator on the film.
Born in Kabul in 1981, Baktash and his family had to flee during the Soviet Invasion in 1984. After spending over a year and half in Pakistan between refugee camps and makeshift homes, his family was given asylum in the United States and started their new life in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Baktash started his career as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mozambique. He then went into management consulting with Booz Allen Hamilton before serving as a military translator in Afghanistan for three years. His experience not only brought him closer to his roots and but also instilled a sense of responsibility to educate others on the realities on the ground in Afghanistan. Baktash joined FRAME BY FRAME as an ambassador for that same reason — to shed light on the country's complexities through human stories.
Baktash will have a Q&A at the end of the screening tomorrow, we hope to see you there!
Dr. Rosenthal, JHU Adjunct Faculty, delivered a thoughtful talk about the idea of Europe and the recent resurgence of nationalism Wednesday at the JHU Governmental Studies Center. Dr. Rosenthal served for many years as the program coordinator for the JHU Governmental Studies Center before moving to Europe. The room was filled with faculty and former and current students, who engaged Dr. Rosenthal in a very interesting and sustained discussion that lasted well into the evening. Dr. Rosenthal's power point presentation is attached here