After Donald Trump’s Victory
nothing will be the same, especially for researchers and pollsters, whose predictions of the election results were phenomenally off the mark, including the renowned www. fivethirtyeight.com’s political forecast headed by Nate Silver, the author of the book “The Noise and the Signal”. Silver is famous for the fact that his computer evidently has no “backspace” button; as he doesn’t make mistakes ever’’. These recent elections indeed proved that the Silver’s ‘ good old ‘ interview methods cannot be trusted when it comes to predicting voting behavior and consequently we should see a move towards online research as well as Artificial Intelligence and Social Media Listening; indeed one of the few companies which correctly predicted the Trump victory was the Indian startup Genic.ai. Its founder, Sanjiv Rai, has taken 20 million data points (considerably a larger sample than any other political tracker survey) from public platforms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter and analyzed the data to create predictions that were initially not taken seriously by the mainstream media.
That is partly because the mainstream media did not take Donald Trump himself seriously to begin with. Mr. Trump is the first presidential candidate to rely heavily (almost solely) on establishing a direct relationship with the voters through his celebrity status and ‘twitter’ account. In Mr. Trump’s case, it got a little too personal towards the end, his campaign manager had to ban him from using his own account. One has to admit that Clinton’s ‘Fact Checking Website’ looked somewhat outdated and terribly nineteen nineties compared with Trump’s juicy tweets. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s sensational comments ensured that he never lacked for mainstream coverage; he did not have to spend a lot of money on media before the Primaries; thanks to his comments being inflammatory or grossly ‘unqualified‘ and terribly ‘un-presidential’ .
But long gone are the days when political experience and technical expertise were respected. Technocracy is indeed not held in high regard by mainstream voters, who, far
from respecting expert opinion, have come to loath it. After all, it is thanks to the ‘ global technocrats ‘ that the American middle class has been suffering from rising income inequality and has been left more vulnerable than ever in the face of new streamlined industrial processes and increasing competition from emerging economies. In the upcoming Trump era, meritocracy, expertise and technocracy may well be replaced by, ‘anti – establishment anger’, ‘straight talk’ and ‘impulsiveness’ ’ . As the election results indicate, voters will favor leaders who stimulate and provide easy solution to their fears, and who seem uncalculated rather than being ‘politically correct’; such are the voters who turned against Clinton in places like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, states which have a long history of supporting the Democratic Party. Clinton, a technocratic establishment figure failed to connect with voters on an emotional level and could not quite develop a narrative about how she would address the country’s problems. Nor did she ever take the time to visit any of these “rust-belt” states during her presidential campaign. Trump on the other hand, strangely managed to emphasize with the daily struggles of non-collage educated, blue collar workers, despite being a billionaire.
Now looking back, it all looks very predictable, doesn’t it? But the real challenge for us market researchers was to do so before the election and not afterwards. With Donald Trump as President, we are entering an era where it will be harder to predict voting behavior or influence it; and as a sector we should learn from experience, invest more in online research, Social Media Listening and develop better ways of measuring digital engagement. We should not cling to familiar old methodologies, or find peace in the comfort of technical knowledge (just look at Clinton!) and keep developing our research tools to gain understanding and insights about the public. Oh, and possibly tweet a bit more!
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