Randall Hill / Reuters Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and rival candidate U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speak simultaneously at the NBC News - YouTube Democratic presidential candidates debate in Charleston, South Carolina January 17, 2016. 

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How Digital Politics Shaped U.S. Elections

The sheer scope of electoral competition in the United States provides fertile ground for consultants offering the newest or most effective tools that can win a competitive race. Indeed, the large number of well-funded potential clients explains why the business of politics is so much larger in the United States than in other democratic nations. The origins of the political consulting industry in the United States has shaped the nature of elections, as well as the broader features of the U.S. political system. Efforts to better understand the dispositions and intentions of the voting public can create innovative campaign techniques that challenge existing conceptions of political intelligence and advice. Just as the advent of radio, polling, or television has influenced how politics work in the United States, digital campaign tools in the form of Internet advertising or data analytics have also altered the character of political work.

The ability of these newer technologies to target supporters with greater precision and efficiency than traditional media, however, is unlikely to disrupt the control consultants have over how campaigns are conducted. Compared with previous breakthroughs, advances in digital campaigns are taking place amid a fully developed market for political services. The commercialization of political work over the past century makes it less likely that digital politics will produce a radical opening of the campaign field. The business of politics is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few large firms, with only a few consulting companies dominating the digital niche within the industry. Advances will help them provide new services, but will also provide up and coming forces from assuming too much market share.


In a world where data analysis can help drive decisions big and small, politics still remains a speculative enterprise. In the midst of a close race, it is difficult to know whether a particular tactic or strategy will prove to be the decisive factor that separates a candidate from victory or defeat. Even if many elections are

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