The Victory Lab
The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns
UPDATED FOR THE 2016 ELECTION
The book Politico calls “Moneyball for politics” shows how cutting-edge social science and analytics are reshaping the modern political campaign.
Renegade thinkers are crashing the gates of a venerable American institution, shoving aside its so-called wise men and replacing them with a radical new data-driven order. We’ve seen it in sports, and now in The Victory Lab, journalist Sasha Issenberg tells the hidden story of the analytical revolution upending the way political campaigns are run in the 21st century.
The Victory Lab follows the academics and maverick operatives rocking the war room and re-engineering a high-stakes industry previously run on little more than gut instinct and outdated assumptions. Armed with research from behavioural psychology and randomized experiments that treat voters as unwitting guinea pigs, the smartest campaigns now believe they know who you will vote for even before you do. Issenberg tracks these fascinating techniques—which include cutting edge persuasion experiments, innovative ways to mobilize voters, heavily researched electioneering methods—and shows how our most important figures, such as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, are putting them to use with surprising skill and alacrity.
Provocative, clear-eyed and energetically reported, The Victory Lab offers iconoclastic insights into political marketing, human decision-making, and the increasing power of analytics.
Turns out there's plenty of actual science in political science, and this new book from Issenberg (The Sushi Economy) shows how it's being deployed with increasing sophistication in nearly every significant election. Also the basis for an aptly titled e-book, Rick Perry and His Eggheads, this bipartisan examination of behavioral science and high-level campaign strategy takes the Moneyball approach to the clashes between polling strategists' quantitative methodologies of get-out-the vote and the gut-level instincts of old campaigners. Issenberg's early history of political data collection and data-crunching, from the 1920s to the mid 1960s, is particularly deft. There are closely drawn portraits of generally unknown number crunchers and hidden strategies, including the behavioral insights of Todd Rogers, whose Analyst Institute gave rise to a sophisticated persuasion and get-out-the-vote infrastructure for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, and the approach of Dave Carney, whose explorations of Republican voter behavior guided races from George H.W. Bush's 1992 loss to Rick Perry's successful Texas gubernatorial race. Issenberg's thorough analysis of the transformation of the smoke-filled campaign backroom to a data-rich network would delight a budding political statistician. However, only the most hard-core political junkies will find book-length resonance in discussions of research methods and software development for political ends.
A narrative of the history of campaign strategy
Better than a campaign handbook that tells you the best practices for campaigning, the Victory Lab takes you on a narrative journey of market testing and behavioral studies to inform campaign strategy, ultimately multi-channel micro-targeting.
I love learning the narrative of how and why different campaign strategies emerged, and the stories of the wins and losses. While the level of detail is rich and interesting, I was still taken aback in Chapter 3 when we started our third new course of history being told--this time on the scientific method-- in as many chapters.
There are great morsels for the campaign/nonprofit marketer to grab immediately for their personal toolkit, from efficacy of various marketing channels to using data to inspire volunteers.
It was inspiring, too--about data, the value of micro-targeting our marketing messages, how what we know about human behavior can incite action, and that the good old grassroots strategies of yesteryear still matter.
I highly recommend The Victory Lab to those working in political science and nonprofit marketing.
This book is absolutely fascinating no other way to say. If you are interested in politics and voter turn-out this is the book.