Skip to main content
ABC News
A History Of Data In American Politics (Part 4): A Trump Data Memo

Over the last six months or so, we’ve been taking a tour of the way data has been used in American politics, from William Jennings Bryan in the 1890s through Barack Obama in 2008 and Hillary Clinton in 2016. This week, my colleague Clare Malone joins the show to help nudge that timeline forward a bit, thanks to her reporting on the Donald Trump data operation.

It’s no secret that Trump is a data skeptic. As a result, Republicans are nervous that they’ll fall even further behind the Democrats when it comes to data infrastructure. But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been anyone inside Team Trump thinking about targeting voters. As Clare found, at least one former staffer wrote a memo suggesting that the campaign target “low propensity” but Trump-loyal voters. That’s an inversion of the usual approach, which tries to narrow the field to likely voters. Instead, this memo advocated for activating a large swath of people who were not already engaged in the political process but were likely Trump supporters.

The catch: This is a tough group to target, as they are almost by definition not in a database. Plus, there isn’t much evidence that Trump’s campaign has brought huge numbers of new people into the process, as it claims to have done.

Stream or download the full episode above, or subscribe using your favorite podcast app. And read Clare Malone’s full reporting here.

If you’re a fan of What’s The Point, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, and please leave a rating/review — that helps spread the word to other listeners. And be sure to check out our sports show Hot Takedown as well. Have something to say about this episode, or have an idea for a future show? Get in touch by email, on Twitter, or in the comments.

What’s The Point’s music was composed by Hrishikesh Hirway, host of the “Song Exploder” podcast. Download our theme music.

Jody Avirgan hosts and produces podcasts for FiveThirtyEight.