take back the legislature in 2004 even
as John Kerry was ge;ing trounced in
the state’s presidential race, she realized
that Eastern political operatives didn’t
understand the West. “We were winning
races on the local level that Democrats
never would have won before,” she says.
“We wanted to figure out why.”
That led to Denver-based Project
New West, a research and strategy firm
founded with former Clinton political
director Doug Sosnik. Instead of working
for candidates like a traditional pollster,
Project New West hired pollsters itself in
an effort to gather detailed demographic
and a;itudinal data. Then it analyzed
and integrated the data using stringent
metrics of analysis and sold the result-
ing information to state party organiza-
tions and other entities through annual
subscriptions of up to $140,000 each. “It’s
a unique business model that allows mil-
lions of dollars of research to be shared
with our subscribers,” Hanauer says.
On occasion, we are reminded that politics can be cool—take, for example, MTV’s Rock the Vote campaign. But these days, cool is about more than the youth vote—it’s about technology.
At this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) conference, Al Gore and
Sean Parker took to the stage to discuss how the internet is at long
last having a quantifiable impact on the political process. Parker even
referred to this year’s web-driven mass protests of the controversial
SOPA and PIPA internet piracy acts as the “Nerd Spring.”
“Politics has lagged because it was all about door-knocking and
handshaking, but lawn signs and bumper stickers won’t do it any-
more,” says Lou Aronson, founder and CEO of Washington, D.C.-based
mobile polling and social networking company Votifi. “And the sooner
we start recognizing the power of data, the faster we can unlock our
potential as a nation.” Here’s a look at what he and some fellow high-
tech political junkies are up to. —Jennifer Wang
MY NAME IS
Problem: Believe it or not, nearly as many people cast votes for the
American Idol finals in May as voted in the 2008 presidential election.
How can social media and polling be used to get disenfranchised
citizens—especially Millennials, Hispanics and African-Americans—
engaged in politics?
PHOTO© GETTY IMAGES/WIREIMAGE/HEATHER KENNEDY; PHOTO© TONY GALLAGHER
Solution: Make it personal, and make it digital. Votifi users create online
profiles by answering multiple-choice questions on issues ranging from
food to foreign politics. They can then build out a network to discuss issues with like-minded voters—or debate those with opposing viewpoints.
For campaigns and organizations, Votifi surveys offer a glimpse into users’ political identities over time, offering far greater detail than a simple
split down party lines. The surveys can be answered through a browser or
mobile app, which appeals to groups difficult to reach on land lines.
Early success: Votifi has sent out roughly 1. 8 million e-mail surveys
and gotten a 65 percent completion rate. (Old-school robo-dials had
an average 3 percent response rate.) The company, which has 5,600
members, claimed a finalist spot at the 2012 SXSW accelerator competition and completed major research campaigns for organizations
like the 2012 Charlotte Democratic Convention.