Big Data in Political Elections

Project Proposal

Pablo De La Mora, Taylor Jarrett, Era Kraja, Shuqing (Annette) Zhao

Big Data: Big Boon and Big Brother?

Prof. Dr. Adalbert Wilhelm


I. Motivation


   Nowadays, retrieving information regarding people’s virtual interactions, commercial or intellectual transactions, feelings, expressions is becoming fairly easy due to the worldwide usage of internet. Thus, research on the relationship between usage of online communication and offline behavior has increased during this decade. Big data collected from user search has been used to monitor flu outbreaks, to analyse the evolution of language, etc. Twitter posts, in particular, have enabled researchers to accurately predict the box office total revenue from mentions of specific movies as well as estimate stock prices or the outcome of presidential elections from general public mood– in 2012 alone, 22% of registered voters let their friends know who they planned to vote for via social media, such as Facebook and Twitter (Rainie).


   In the realm of politics, in particular, much attention has been paid to the analysis of data. While politicians and voters used to rely on opinion polls to predict election results, these tools are now outdated and unrepresentative. The increasing usage of big data analytics brings new insight into existing trends and possible outcomes. In the recent presidential elections in the United States, big data was gathered and analyzed by experts, and it is through this process that reliable information and predictions were obtained. While the possibility exists that information may be inaccurate due to a variety of reasons, steps can be taken to ensure the validity of the given predictions. The significance of this information and the accuracy of these estimates acquired from user records have once again validated the crucial role that big data analytics play in today’s world.


II. Short summary description of the business/service

   Twitter is a social media platform launched in July 2006. This platform allows the user to share a maximum of 140 character “posts” along with photos, videos, and links to other web pages. Over the years Twitter has become a platform for sharing news in a quick easy to digest way, and for many people to make constant updates of their lives, including celebrities, and politicians. This platform has revolutionized the way people connect, along with creating “trends”, a hot topic about which many people post about, making it reach more and more people.  Amongst the many things users can do in twitter, one of them is to re-post a message, or tweet. By doing so, they are sharing information or statements with their own network of followers. This means that a message can be potentially seen by all of Twitter’s 313 million users in 2016. With functions like this, data can be gathered about anything people do, and help businesses now what people like, want, or could eventually want or like.


III. First opportunities/threats

   Since the rise of social media, big data has increasingly become a tool for business marketing, but also for politics. The previous 2012 election outcome, was predicted through big data analysis, and candidates are becoming more and more social media savvy as the years pass. The realm of social media continues to prove an increasingly important battleground for US and international politics. However, experts face some limits when it comes to gathering and analyzing the data. First and foremost, users’ privacy needs to be ensured (Maycotte). Second, in contrast to professional pollsters, data analytics cannot sample voters that are likely to vote (those who exercised their right to vote in the previous elections). Also a participation bias exists, as certain voters may be more motivated to participate in the poll than other voters. On a different note, it is quite easy for social media users to spam propaganda, therefore manipulating and polluting the data. Steps must be taken to ensure a level of reliability in the data.


IV. Group organization

   Although primary responsibilities have been assigned to each team member, we have agreed to assist each-other whenever help is called for, in order to maximise efficiency and obtain better outcomes of our project in a timely manner. Nevertheless, our roles as of now are as follows: Annette will be the content expert, Era will be our data analyst, Pablo will put everything together in the end, whereas Taylor will review the necessary literature.




Maycotte, H.O. “Will Big Data Determine Our Next President?”. N.p., 2015. Web. 4 Oct. 2016.


Rainie, Lee. “Social Media And Voting”. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. N.p., 2012. Web. 4 Oct. 2016.


Smith, Brandon. “The Beginner’s Guide to Twitter”. 2012. Web.



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