Messy data and misrepresentations are rife in voting studies. Here’s how those mistakes have helped drive one of the most damaging conspiracy theories in politics.
During the 2016 primary season, Trump campaign staffer Matt Braynard had an unusual political strategy. Instead of targeting Republican base voters—the ones who show up for every election—he focused on the intersection of two other groups: people who knew of Donald Trump, and people who had never voted in a primary before. These were both large groups.
Sloppy, bad and even naïve research can be weaponised to justify conspiracy/reckless acts. Just look at the behaviour of Agent Orange at the moment in terms of the election, he lost. All of us involved in research must endeavour to take responsibility to ensure research is designed, conducted and reported responsibly and with integrity. The consequences if they are not can be truly awful.
His strategy, built from polls, research, and studies of voting behavior, focused on two goals in particular. The first was registering, engaging, educating, and turning out non-voters, the largest electoral bloc in the country and one that’s regularly ignored. One recent survey of 12,000“chronic non-voters” suggests they receive “little to no attention in national political conversations” and remain “a mystery to many institutions.”