How Donald Trump won the presidency with ‘Big Data’ technology

big data technology

How technology helped Trump win the elections

After the election night, a lot of people in the USA accused Exit Poll technologies and social sciences to be wrong in their predictions. Swiss Das Magazine has investigated, how ‘Big Data’ technology was successfully used in the Brexit referendum campaign and now, the Donald Trump presidential race.

Big Data technology origin

The technology of ‘Big Data’ was invented by Stanford University Ph.D. Michal Kosinsky.
During 2014 he was working on this psychographic project in British Cambridge University. When Dr. Kosinsky and his colleagues realized how dangerous this technology could be, they stopped the research. The project was finalized and commercialized by young entrepreneur A.Nix, who has founded political sociology company “Big Data: Cambridge Analytica”.

First practical experience of using the technology in political voting had huge success with global consequences: Great Britain left the European Union. The morning after the Brexit referendum was shocking for a lot of people in the UK. Before counting all votes, it seemed that “EU stay” supporters had a bigger media presence while Brexit agitation had successfully reached the majority of voters.

Where does the technology come into play?

It is no secret, that every one of our actions on the Internet leaves a digital trail. When you are searching for sport equipment in Google you will probably get some related Facebook ads. Every credit card purchase, every distance covered with a smartphone and every social network you are attached to is recorded. Previously, it was just used for direct marketing and had no real danger. This year, the situation changed as it was predicted by Utopian Literature authors that the technology has become political.

How Big Data technology works

Psychometrics science is in the base of Big Data technology. Internet users are analyzed with the OCEAN method, which an anagram of “Big Five” dimensions of individuality:

1. O for Openness – How ready are you for change?
2. C for Conscientiousness – How much of a perfectionist are you?
3. E for Extraversion – How social are you?
4. A for Amiability – How cooperative are you?
5. N for Neuroticism – How hurtful are you?


Every Facebook user fills this survey automatically by using the social network. Big Data technology analyzes likes and posts the user has created; in addition to his sex, age and location. This is how the researchers get the connections. For example, the system could identify the orientation of the user by analyzing music pages he had liked while extraversion could be identified by the quantity of friends.

According to Kosinsky, 68 likes are enough to prove user’s race with 95% probability, the same user’s orientation with 88% probability and whether he supports Republican or the Democratic Party with 85% probability. If, for instance, the system analyzes 70 likes, it will know the user better than a friend, if 150 – better than parents, if 300 – better than life partner. Moreover, it is able to analyze our profile picture and our daily tracks if we are using a smartphone.

With this data, political researchers create psychological portraits and then are analyzed by political consultants. Direct targeting on Facebook and many other platforms gives political experts a possibility to create a political ad for every potential doubting voter with a personalized topic from a political campaign, image, utilizing timing and even color.
So, it is extremely effective and reaches a perfectly targeted audience.

How Big Data technology comes to USA?

First to discover the technologies’ effectiveness was Trump’s republican forerunner – Ted Cruz. According to “Big Data: Cambridge Analytica” founder, Ted Cruz’s popularity boom was not possible without the technology. After the enormous success of Big Data in the UK, Trump became interested in working with the British company. He started to invest every month more and more in his campaign and welcomed ”Cambridge Analytica” to work in his Digital headquarters in San Antonio. The goal of this team was to follow doubting Republicans to the voting ballot and convince doubting Democratic voters to stay at their homes. For example, a message where Hillary names African-American men violent, was shown to doubting African-American democratic voters encouraging some of them not to vote on the election day. The strategy of Hillary was more global, she has worked mostly with mass media criticizing Trump and with their voters. Trump did not even win the majority vote, but thanks to strategical direct targeting, he won in doubting states.

Maybe Big Data technology wasn’t the only factor of Trump’s triumph but it was definitely an advantage over the Clinton’s team.

The next famous politician, who wants to use this technology is Marine Le Pen – right-wing French presidential candidate.

That’s how, modern technology could change the history and the future at the same time.


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