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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lively, engaging and informative account of the emerging science behind elections
In The Victory Lab, Issenberg charts the use of scientific methods in the practice of electioneering in US politics. What's fascinating about his account is that up until very recently there was very little science behind how elections were conducted, and there's been a noticeable disconnect between political science and the electioneers. The strategy was simply one of...
Published on 25 Nov. 2012 by Rob Kitchin

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3.0 out of 5 stars Campaigning in the Age of Big Data
This is a book about how to win an election in the age of high tech and big data. Campaigning is no longer about broadcasting a candidate's message to the widest possible audience. It is not even about distinguishing between a candidate's supporters, opponents, and the undecided to send a different message to each group. It is about tapping vast quantities of data...
Published 4 months ago by John M. Ford


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lively, engaging and informative account of the emerging science behind elections, 25 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns (Hardcover)
In The Victory Lab, Issenberg charts the use of scientific methods in the practice of electioneering in US politics. What's fascinating about his account is that up until very recently there was very little science behind how elections were conducted, and there's been a noticeable disconnect between political science and the electioneers. The strategy was simply one of blanket advertising across different media, mail shots, debates, mudslinging and rallies. There was little attempt to scientifically measure and evaluate the effectiveness of different approaches, or to segment and target populations. Drawing on his own experience of a journalist covering elections and interviews with a number of key players, Issenberg provides an account of the rise of data and statistically-driven campaigning in the US, culminating in Obama's election in 2008. Because the chapters are arranged by chronology and by particular groups/campaigns, the structure tends to move to-and-fro a little. That said, the narrative it easy enough to follow, and the text is lively, engaging and informative. Somewhat oddly, there seems to have been no attempt to learn anything from elections outside of the US, and Issenberg's narrative barely strays beyond US shores. Overall, what the book demonstrates is the US elections are now being run like lab-experiments, underpinned by big data and statistical algorithms, and they're set to follow this approach for the foreseeable future.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Inside Look Behind the Art and Science of Current American Political Campaigning, 10 Nov. 2012
By 
John Kwok (New York, NY USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns (Hardcover)
Published mere months before the American presidential and congressional elections of 2012, "The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns" is an insightful exploration of the recent history behind the application of behavioral psychology and statistical analysis in influencing the current state of American political campaigns, especially with regards to shaping campaign themes and messages and in enticing voter turnout. Sasha Issenberg's book is a very reasonable account of current American political campaigning and one which promises to be viewed by many as a journalistic landmark that will be read not only by a general audience but also by those interested in shaping further the future course of political campaigning here in the United States. Issenberg emphasizes the important research of Yale University political scientists Don Green and Alan Gerber in emphasizing the importance of direct, personal appeals, by campaign workers to potential voters. Applying insights derived from behavioral psychology, the research done by Green, Gerber and their students would have important impact on the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. Issenberg describes how the use of statistical techniques derived from market research as well as from theoretical statistics would have important, dramatic impacts in data mining of potential voters which the Obama campaign used brilliantly in its 2008 campaign, as well as what may be occurring now within Romney's campaign. Without question, "The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns" is an important addition towards public understanding of modern political campaigns and one worthy of a wide readership.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Campaigning in the Age of Big Data, 13 Oct. 2014
By 
John M. Ford "johnDC" (near DC, MD USA) - See all my reviews
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This is a book about how to win an election in the age of high tech and big data. Campaigning is no longer about broadcasting a candidate's message to the widest possible audience. It is not even about distinguishing between a candidate's supporters, opponents, and the undecided to send a different message to each group. It is about tapping vast quantities of data available about most American adults and targeting each person with the most effective personalized strategy. And it is about finding the best messages, issues, even rumors, using experimental comparisons. It is about doing this below the radar, out of the awareness of the public. This is the nature of the modern political battlefield as seen by both parties. The strategy, tactics, and personalities who make this possible are the subject of this book.

The book's narrative is a collection of smaller stories. There are brief biographies of those who developed and refined new approaches to collecting and using voter data. There are success and failure stories of various campaigns and of major battles within those campaigns. And there are the specific tactics these people deploy. It is impossible to list them all, so here are a few:

- Using public records, pollsters mailed each person in a precinct a list of who had voted and who had not voted in the last election--along with an announcement of their plan to mail out updated lists after the next election. This increased voter turnout by 20%. When this strategy as put into practice, the mailers went only to voters likely to support the pollster's candidate, resulting in a selective increase in voter turnout.

- It is very difficult to sell new tactics. "If you do something different, everyone will point at the thing you did different and say that's why you lost. So if you're the campaign manager you don't do anything different. If you follow the rule book strictly they can't blame anything on you."

- Researchers do not find sufficient similarity among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to use these broad categories. Instead they develop more specific typologies, such as the one from Times Mirror: "Two of the clusters were distinctly Republican (Enterprisers and Moralists), four Democratic (New Dealers, Sixties Democrats, the Partisan Poor, and the Passive Poor), and two leaning in each direction (Upbeats and Disaffecteds towards the Republicans, Seculars and Followers towards the Democrats). Eleven percent of American adults were found to be fully, and seemingly permanently, detached from politics; Times Mirror called them Bystanders." (See Pew Research's web site for a more current example of such a political typology.)

- It's no surprise that telling people they "should" do something produces defensiveness and resistance to change. But telling them that a large number of other people are doing it increases their chances of doing the same. This approach, developed by social psychologists to encourage general prosocial behavior, translated well to get-out-the-vote programs.

- Prospective voters asked if they would vote for an African-American often answer positively when they have privately decided they are not comfortable doing so. This has led to vote overestimates for African-American candidates. Researchers found they could get more accurate estimates by asking prospective voters if they thought their neighbors would vote for an African-American. This approach worked as "...a way of correcting for the inability of voters to be as honest and self-aware as pollsters like to pretend they are."

The book provides a readable and seemingly thorough account of how campaign tactics have developed in the age of big data. I would be a more valuable book if some of the biographical information were removed in favor of more detailed description of campaign tactics and statistical procedures. As written, it gives a sense of these techniques and how they are used. More detail is needed, if not in this book, then in a companion volume that is more methods-oriented. I'd like to see Sasha Isenberg write something like what the forensic linguist John Olsson has produced, both a serious text, Forensic Linguistics and a popular audience collection of interesting cases, Wordcrime.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant read, 26 May 2014
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This review is from: The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns (Hardcover)
This is exactly the product I wanted at a very reasonable price. Highly recommended and would use again. My thanks, Ian

Well worth the read and great insight.
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3.0 out of 5 stars More a history of winning campaigns, 12 Nov. 2013
By 
Stijn Vercamer (Gent, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns (Hardcover)
Interesting book, but I expected more practical insights. It focuses a lot on history, which is OK. It gives a deeper dimension to political campaigning.
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The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns
The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns by Sasha Issenberg (Hardcover - 1 Nov. 2012)
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