If you want to feel somewhat more confident in a Clinton victory on Tuesday, I suggest you have a look at Jim Messina’s piece in today’s New York Times. He explains the difficulty of relying on broadly scoped public polling to get a real sense of what’s going on and argues that only those with the resources, typically the campaigns themselves, have the ability to segment the voting universe in ways that are truly illuminating and strategically helpful.
“Big data” is a buzzword, but that concept is outdated. Campaigns have entered the era of “little data.” Huge data sets are often less helpful in understanding an electorate than one or two key data points — for instance, what issue is most important to a particular undecided voter.
With “little data,” campaigns can have direct, highly personalized conversations with voters both on- and offline, like an ad on a voter’s Facebook page addressing an issue the voter is passionate about. In 2016, we see that online political engagement rates (especially for young voters) are at a historic high.
This is why campaigns no longer pay much attention to public polls, which often use conversations with just a few hundred people to make predictions about the entire electorate. Getting a truly representative sample has become ever more difficult because of the growing percentage of households with only cellphones, the number of voters who prefer to speak a language other than English, and the difficulty in contacting younger voters, who generally don’t have landlines.
The bottom line is that the Clinton campaign has invested resources in this approach. The Trump campaign has not.
And if you are wondering why the name Jim Messina is familiar to you, he was President Obama’s campaign manager in 2012. Look how well that worked out.