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Clinton wins, how analytics cost Trump the election

Rob Enderle | July 25, 2016
Columnist Rob Enderle takes a look into the future, a future in which Hilary Clinton became president and Donald Trump didn’t. It all came down to analytics.

Focus groups

I agree with Trump and Steve Jobs in the opinion that focus groups are crap when it comes to predicting things. The reason is they are way too easily manipulated, there is no good way to place them in the future so their decisions in the group mirror what they will actually do, and, because they are so compelling, people tend to believe what the focus group says.

I’ll give you an example. Years ago I was in a focus group for Chrysler and they showed me what I thought was a wonderful car. All of us said we’d buy it in a minute, so they put the car into production. However, in the 18 months between when the car was shown to us and when it became available, there were better cars that came from competing firms so my position, and everyone else's, changed. The car ended up not selling well.

This doesn’t mean focus groups aren’t useful. They are best used when trying to understand why someone did something. They are largely worthless in terms of predicting something. For instance, on the Brexit vote, focus groups likely would have showcased that people voted for it to show displeasure with the government not because they really wanted the exit. That would tell you the underlying problem to fix was the “pissed off at the government” part not exiting the EU.

Why Trump lost

While Clinton’s use of analytics clearly isn’t at Obama’s level, it is well above Trump’s. Partly, you can see this in regards to how much better she has been at collecting donations. She also seems to pivot better on issues as they become important for resonance. However, the lack of excitement in her campaign and the email thing still make this a race for now. The number both camps should be watching more closely is propensity to vote because this is partially what bit Romney in the butt last cycle.  

But the lesson I want to leave you with is that numbers make for better decisions and, if you can’t trust them, fix the trust part -- don’t just toss out the entire concept of analytics as a key decision-making tool. If your brakes didn’t work, you wouldn’t stop using brakes, you’d get them fixed. Brakes can save your life, analytics can save your job, or in this case from being made fun of because you did worse than the guy you’ve been calling a choke artist.

 

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