A broad term, political data is defined as the information and statistics that relate to demographics, donation history, voter preference, voting behavior, and anything else that impacts elections and public policy. In the era of big data, campaigns and advocacy organizations that are not data-driven are at serious risk of falling behind the competition.
At Aristotle, our team sets the gold standard in political data. With an award-winning data file, we are widely-regarded as having the most accurate and comprehensive data for campaigns, PACs, and political advocacy groups. In this article, you will find an overview of the key things to know about political data, including what it is, who needs it, and where to get it.
What Constitutes Political Data & Statistics?
Political data includes a wide variety of information and statistics. It’s important to look at different types of data in order to get a comprehensive view of who your constituents are, what they want, and how you can tailor your campaign to meet their needs.
Here are the common types of political data and statistics, as well as how to obtain it.
As defined by National Geographic, quantitative data is all data that can be expressed as a numerical value. In contrast, qualitative data is descriptive and conceptual, such as looking at correlations. Quantitative data includes everything from policy issue surveys to exit polls, voter donations, income levels and other demographic information. By analyzing quantitative data, politicians, corporations, and grassroots and advocacy groups can make the most of their marketing campaigns.
Political Contributions Database
Fundraising is an important part of campaigns, advocacy, and policy. Data can tell you a lot about donor potential. Political contribution databases—such as the basic database from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the more comprehensive donor information from Aristotle—provide a lot of actionable information. These databases can provide insight into the financial support provided by local or national donors, as well as allow you to track ongoing financial contributions. Political contributions databases are equipped with search and filter tools so you can narrow criteria ranging from contribution amounts to the location of contributors. Using these databases can help politicians or corporations track current donations, pinpoint new donors, or gauge future contribution amounts.
The U.S. Census is a comprehensive count of Americans and is taken every ten years. The Census includes important details about demographics and trends. Political candidates, PACs, grassroots organizations and other groups can use the Census data to gain insight into the gender, race, income, or other demographics of their voters and constituents in order to get a better understanding of who they are serving. Notably, the initial results of the 2020 Census were released to the public in the spring of 2021.
Surveys and Public Information
Election surveys, policy issues surveys, and other public polling information is an important source of political data. A well-conducted poll can tell you a lot about what the public thinks about a particular matter. Political candidates or corporations can use surveys to directly ask specific questions to their constituents or consumers in order to gain insight into how the population views certain issues. The data from surveys can help you gauge the public’s reaction to your campaign or marketing. Be aware that surveys are a snapshot of the public and the responses can change overtime as attitudes and current events evolve. Make sure to refresh your data with additional surveys.
Even the best poll still has a margin of error. For campaigns, the most important information comes in the form of election results. Look at previous elections, as well as ongoing elections in nearby vicinities, to gain an understanding of how people in your region are voting. Verified election results are a yardstick by which campaigns and advocacy groups can be measured and can refine their message for future efforts.
Who Needs Political Data?
Modern political campaigns are built on comprehensive, accurate, and properly interpreted political data. Many of the most successful election campaigns in modern history—from the 2004 Bush Campaign to the 2012 Obama Campaign—had a data operation that was ahead of the competition. Candidates can look at previous elections and campaigns and analyze what did or didn’t work for past campaigns. This includes looking at campaigns run by their party, or effective campaigns run by the opposition. Gaining insight from this data can help shape current political campaigns and make current marketing efforts more effective.
Public pollsters and private pollsters need to be able to produce accurate political data. Pollsters look at past surveys, census data, past election results, and contributions databases to create a list of questions. The information from surveys and polls are valuable for political candidates, grassroots organizations, PACs, corporations, and other groups. An inaccurate poll could skew the results and be misleading for a political candidate. In order to conduct a reliable and representative poll of a modern American electorate, you must take a data-driven approach.
Political Action Committees (PACs) are 527 organizations that pool donor resources in order to achieve certain goals. They generally work for or against a candidate, ballot measure, or particular federal or state legislative goal. Certain super PACs exist primarily to obtain and share data with political candidates. In order to be effective, PACs must know how to use political data.
Political advocacy groups exist to make a change. Political advocacy is American politics at its best. Also known as interest groups or lobbying groups, advocacy groups use political data to add a layer of credibility to their call for change. Accurate data can provide context, and make it easier for decision-makers to understand how issues impact the community. Without a coordinated and data-conscious plan, political advocacy groups will simply not be in the best position to have the greatest possible impact.
Consulting Companies and Agencies
Political data is central to the value offered by agencies and consulting specialists. A wide range of consulting companies and public affairs agencies are involved in campaigning. Consultants help their clients—including campaigns and PACs—get the most efficient and effective results. These companies must be sure to gather accurate and credible data in order to make informed decisions, and advise politicians and other organizations on how to reach consumers and voters.
Politics matters for corporations large and small. Even a corporation that has no desire to have an impact on a public policy issue can still benefit from the political data. Corporations can use political data to stay up-to-date with current customers in order to make effective marketing campaigns. Census data and opinion poll results can give corporations insight into what consumers care about and who they are. Political data also allows corporations to stay informed on current events that could shape the future for businesses.
Civil Rights Organizations and Single Issue Organizations
Civil rights organizations and other single issue organizations need to be able to identify the right donors, figure how much to ask for, and craft an overall message that works. It’s especially important that the information used is accurate and up-to-date in order for the organization to make an impact. These types of organizations will turn to surveys, polls, census data, and even information from past elections to gauge how voters feel and what issues resonate with voters the most. Accurate political data can help these groups achieve big goals and promote their cause.
Political Tech Startups
Technology is changing the way that Americans do politics. A number of political tech startups have been launched all across the country in recent years, including BallotReady, Voatz, Votem, and Democracy Works. These startups work to streamline fundraising, and they create and use new techniques for effective campaigning. Political tech startups work to provide online and mobile voter registration, help voters request absentee ballots, and create ways for voters to vote online. Not only do political tech startups need data themselves, but they need to be able to show data-competency to their clients. In the era of big data, many clients have high expectations for tech-related startup companies.
Where to Find Data Sources
National Voter File
The National Voter File is one of the most valuable sources of political data. Aristotle provides clients with access to an award-winning National Voter File that has more than 226 million actively registered voters, consumer lists, and more. The National Voter File contains information pertaining to demographics, electoral data, and geography in order to provide a truly comprehensive picture of voters across the country. This modern database features an intuitive user experience design, providing voter files for all states in the union. You can access files through VoterListsOnline (VLO) where you can instantly download the lists you need, 24/7.
National Consumer File
Consumer data should not be overlooked in politics. As useful as election polling and issue polling data can be, actions can sometimes speak louder than words. Aristotle’s National Consumer File is a vast database with information pertaining to more than 245 million individual records as well as over 1,000 demographics and lifestyle characteristics. The information within the file is built from thousands of sources, including national voter registrations, consumer transaction records, self-reported product registration cards, surveys, public record data, and other sources available to the general public. The database also has unique breakdowns that include all age breakdowns, family breakdowns, purchases, education, lifestyle and interests, financials, and more. Aside from political campaigns, the National Consumer File is used by non-profit organizations, corporations, PACs, and other groups in an effort to better understand voters and consumers. You can access the files through VoterListsOnline (VLO) where you can instantly download the lists you need.
National Donor File
At Aristotle, we have a National Donor File with more than 160 million donations. The National Donor File details political donations made to specific political candidates and campaigns. This record of donations provides insight into the financial donations made by people, as well as corporations and other organizations. Our Donor Insight for political donations allows you to view records of those who have donated to you, analyze what your donors have given to similar causes and candidates, and allows you to generate instant reports detailing how much your donors have given. The key thing to remember about donor data is that donation history is by far the best predictor of future donation potential. Campaigns, PACs, and advocacy groups need funding—and it helps to know who to ask and what to ask for.
Election results are practical and useful forms of political data—especially recent election results and overall election trends. By analyzing election results from past elections in your district, as well as neighboring districts, you’ll be able to understand voter patterns. Many historical federal election results can be pulled directly from USA.gov. The FEC also provides public records fort past federal elections every two years. For local state elections, check your state’s election office website for state-wide voting guidance.
FiveThirtyEight.com is a popular website focused on polling analysis, political data, and a wide range of other matters. While not itself a polling organization, FiveThirtyEight is an easy way to review many recent election polls. The site offers information and data to help organizations, political candidates, and others predict human behavior and social trends in the future. FiveThirtyEight is a must-read for everyone who is running for office, those who work for grassroots organizations, those employed by PACs, and others with an interest in political and social change.
Ballotpedia.org offers a comprehensive encyclopedia of American politics and elections. The nonpartisan website provides information ranging from elections to politics on the national level and state level. Politicians, advocacy groups, corporations, PACs, and more can gain information regarding elections, candidates, polling figures, ballot initiative, and other political matters.
Finally, public and private news agencies—including PBS, NPR, CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, CNN, and local or national newspapers—often publish a considerable amount of actionable political data for the public. News agencies collect facts and report ongoing events related to politics, business and social issues. By analyzing the information from news agencies, you’ll be able to gain a full understanding of social and political trends, relevant news events, target voters, and the issues your voters and consumers care about.
Aristotle is the Leader in Political Data and Campaign Solutions
At Aristotle, we are proud to set the gold standard in political data. Serving campaigns, PACs, political advocacy groups, and other organizations, our team of data-driven professionals help clients reach more voters and donors. Aristotle has also designed a cloud-based Campaign Manager designed for political and non-profit fundraisers and treasurers. We’ve streamlined your campaign process to help you run a successful campaign. Reach out to us for more information about how we can help your campaign reach its true potential.
If you have any questions about political data or our political data services, please do not hesitate to give us a call or contact us online.