The Data Lifecycle

This article describes a best-practice for campaigns in using data for targeting voters and how you can achieve that with TRC.

The flow here is to start with getting initial public data from the county auditor, merge in microtargeting information, choose the targets, canvass, and iterate on the model.

flowchart

Conceptually, we can think of data like a giant spreadsheet (CSV file). Each row is a voter, and columns are information about that voter.  We’ll walk through the different phases with a small sample of 8 records, but TRC can help you do this with your entire district of 80,000 records

Continue reading “The Data Lifecycle”

How partisan are WA organizational donors?

In previous posts we’ve looked at how our political system has become increasingly polarized, with our analysis of voting records showing that many self-styled moderates and independents are exhibiting much more partisan behavior when voting on the House or Senate floor.  Having served for a few years now on a PDC open data advisory group, I realized that the same type of analysis could be done for organizational donors.  Despite this being public data, not many people in Washington state know who the biggest political donors are, much less who they support.

So, are many of these “non-partisan” or “bi-partisan” organizational donors more partisan than they let on?

We can figure this out, and the methodology is pretty simple.  The PDC Open Data Portal publishes all contributions to candidates and political committees back to 2008.  For this first analysis, we looked at donations to partisan legislative and statewide candidates from businesses, unions and political action committees.  The partisanship score for each donor is the difference in percentage of donations by party, giving each a range from 100 (exclusively Republican) to -100 (exclusively Democrat).

Most of the effort here is involved with the fuzzy matching algorithm, since candidates are very inconsistent on how they report the names of these organizations to the PDC.  I use a trigram matching method, which isn’t perfect…but it does pretty well.  Currently, contributions are grouped under the same donor if 80% or more of the trigrams match, but this is adjustable.

Here are the results:

Partisan Donors (2008-18)

If you visit WhipStat.com, you’ll now find an interactive and animated version of our organizational donor partisan analysis that allows you to filter by jurisdiction type and date range.

Filters

If you’d like to do further analysis, feel free to hit the Download button for a tab-delimited table of the charted data.  Note that for now we don’t display or download the complete donor dataset, as that includes over 8,000 organizations.

A few things become apparent when reviewing the results:

  • Some of the biggest legislative donors give heavily to candidates from both parties.
  • About 6% more is given to Democrats than Republicans in legislative races, but that increases to 28% when looking at statewide races.

Up next:  We’ll take a close look at hard money vs. soft money contributions.

TRC Map View

TRC includes a map view that shows you the voters as pins on a map. This is a standard view similar to what you’d see in any canvassing app. Since it runs directly in the browser, there’s no additional installation step needed.

The map view is exactly the same underlying information as in the List View, so you’re encouraged to use whichever view makes you most productive.  You can make changes in the map view, and then immediately switch to the List View and see them.

A common pattern is to use Geofencing to carve up a large region into smaller neighborhoods, and then you can use the map view to canvass those neighborhoods.

Using the map view

The pins are color coded by party ID. Hollow pins are doors that have already been visited. You can go back and edit answers on visited doors.

trc-map-1

You can touch a pin to see the voters at that household:

trc-map-2

If nobody is home, you can mark “Result Of Contact” for the door and move on. Else, you can select an individual to see their information and record the canvassing results.

Be sure to

  1. fill out the Party ID,
  2. fill out whether they’re a supporter, and
  3. result of contact.
  4. hit the “Save” button

trc-map-3

Getting to the map view

You can get to the map view by touching the “View Map” buttons on the standard walking list.

Offline usage

The map view leverages HTML5 local storage support to provide an offline experience even though it runs in a browser.

This means that you can load the map view while you have an internet connection, and then canvass offline, and then upload the results when you’re done. However, it’s highly encouraged to canvass with a cel connection so that your results are immediately uploaded. Even if you temporarily lose connectivity, your results will be uploaded when you regain a connection.

To verify your results are all uploaded, on the main page, touch “Local Storage” in the upper right corner. That will take you to a page like this:

Hit the refresh button to pull the current status. If you have outstanding changes and running offline, you’ll  see something like this:

trc-map-offline-1

Once you’re back online, hit the “Refresh” button again once online and verify the “Number of Changes not yet uploaded” is 0.

trc-map-offline-2

 

 

How to filter lists

TRC lets you filter your lists.  The filter lets you query for patterns or create  a new share code that lets you then share your filtered view with others  or use your filtered view with other parts of TRC like printing and maps.

Accessing the Filter

You can access filtering via the standard list view.  Click the filter icon in the top-left view:

trc-filter-icon

You can also access Filter from the plugin list.

Common things to filter on are:

  • History –   this is how likely somebody is to actually vote.
  • Party Id  – this is the party affiliation.

Applying filters

There are several views for filtering.  The “basic” tab lets you qickly filter on History, PartyId, and Age.

filter_basic

 

You can also switch to the “Query Builder” tab to create a more complex query. For example, this query is for any women with Party equal to 1 and that live in the specified zipcode or city.

filter_query

Saving the filter

Once you run your query, you can save it:

filter_save

The “Save Query” button will prompt you for a name for this filter. When you hit the back button to go back to the List View, you’ll see it on the sheet list. At this point, the filter acts just like any regular sheet, and you can share it, print it, or use it with any other plugin.

trc-after-filter

Click on “walking list” next to that filter, and you’re now viewing just within the filter.

You can click “share this” to share just this filter with another volunteer.

You can click “view entire walking list” to get back to the full list and possible create new filters.

 

Technical notes

Filtering creates a new “child” sheet that applies a filter-expression to extract a subset of the rows from the original (“parent”) sheet. The filter creates a a view that shares the same sandbox as the original sheet, so all changes in the child are instantly visible in the parent. However, the child sheet still maintains its own history tracking and audit logs.

 

 

 

TRC ListView

TRC’s default view is the “ListView”, which looks like a digital clipboard. Names are organized by street.   There are also other views, such as the common map view.

See http://bit.ly/1U1sgjJ  for a youtube demo.

The view looks like this:

trc-list-view

In the ListView, each row is a voter. Voters are grouped by address so that you can easily identify all voters at a single household when you’re at the door.  You can collapse voters by streets for easy managing.  The grouping is zebra striped (yellow /  white + grey) for easy-reading. The stripe color is purely ascetic.

When you edit cells, they start off red, and then turn green when they’re uploaded to the server.

trc-list-view-detailed

This provides immediate feedback on upload. Cells are colored red when you edit and green when their result is uploaded to the cloud, so you get immediate piece of mind that your changes are safely saved.

TRC supports collaborative editing: when multiple canvassers are walking the same precinct, other canvasser updates show up on your sheet in realtime.

 

Standard columns:

The default view in TRC includes some standard columns:

  • Voter address, name, age, gender – this is commonly from public Secretary of State Voter Database (VRDB)
  • History – this is a percentage of likeliness to vote in the upcoming election. This is similar to the “how many of the last  4 elections did they vote in”.  It’s computed via a predictive model and measurably more reliable than just a “4 score”.
  • Party – this is a party identification.
  • Supporter – Does the voter support your campaign? This likely correlates with party, but is very important in tracking cross-over voters and non-partisan races.
  • Comments – – this lets a canvasser provide free-form notes.

See Pinned vs. Floating values  for more details on where the data comes from.  

Targeted Voters

TRC will bold the “targeted” voters to help canvassers prioritize who to visit. For example, a precinct may have 500 people but you only have time to talk to 50 voters. The “targeting” helps prioritize which ones to talk to. TRC uses a default targeting algorithm, or you can supply your own targets, or you can coordinate with Voter-Science to use analytics to get a special target list for your campaign.

We continue to show all the voters because if you happen to talk to a non-targeted voter, we want to make it easy to record that information. (Knowing who the opponents are makes it easier to guess who our guys are).

Get-Out-The-Vote

Washington State is vote-by-mail. That means that people are casting their votes 3 weeks before the election. During these ballot chase periods, names will also be crossed off as people have voted.   Voter-Science collects the matchbacks from the county auditors.  See Prepping for the ‘16 General for more details.

Sharing with TRC

When you visit the homepage at https://canvas.voter-science.com, you must first log in, and then you’ll see a list of all sheets that you currently have access to.

You can gain access to a sheet by:

  1. Creating a new sheet yourself.
  2. When somebody shares a sheet with you (see below!)
  3. Entering a secret “canvass code” to grant you access to a sheet. This is a form of sharing.

 

Logging in to TRC 

You can log into TRC with an email address or via Facebook.  Anybody can log into TRC, but you may have an empty account until you gain access to some sheets!

Both the mobile applications and website use the same login mechanism.

Email login

If you log in with your email address,  TRC will email a temporary ‘pin’ to that address to confirm that it’s actually your address. You can enter that pin and complete the login.

Facebook login

Alternatively, you can log in with Facebook.

  1. It’s convenient. Nobody wants to remember yet another password.
  2. Facebook is a secure system and has advanced security features like two-factor-authentication.

 

Secret Links and Canvass Codes 

 

An existing user, such as a campaign manager, may share a secret link with you that has an embedded password (a “canvass code”) that will grant you access to a sheet:

They look like this:

https://canvas.voter-science.com/home/sheet?code=SECRET

Be careful! These secret links grant full permission!

The link will first force you to log in, and then grant the current user permission to the sheet. It will then redirect to the sheet’s url and you are ready to use the sheet.  After this, you’ll see the sheet on the homepage https://canvas.voter-science.com, so you should only need to use the secret link once to gain initial access.

 

Sharing sections of your sheet with new volunteers

Suppose you’re granted a code for an entire city with 10,000 voters.

You can share out individual precincts with volunteers. On the main screen, you’ll see a list of the precincts and a “share this” button:

trc-precinct-list

 

When you hit the “Share this…” button, you can enter an email address and short personal message.

trc-share-dialog

 

And then the volunteer will get an email with their own canvas code (just for their precinct) and their own url link. They can receive the email on their smartphone and open the app directly from there and be ready to go.

This code will be different than your original code. Unique codes let the system identify different users.

FAQ

Who can I share with?

You could share a single precinct with multiple people and each would get their own unique code. This lets you identify each individual.

TRC does not charge per-user, so you are encouraged to share with as many people as you need.

Revoking codes

You can also revoke codes that you’ve shared out. For example, you may do this if you typed in the wrong email address.

Geek stuff

What a code is really doing is giving you access to a sandbox. You can share  a single sandbox with multiple people and use the per-user code to track which user is accessing the sandbox. By default, a legislative district split into precincts means that each precinct is a child sandbox.

Can I share URLs?

Yes, you can share browser URLs with anybody.  These URLs have a long number (a “sheet id”) that uniquely identifies the current sheet. For example:

https://canvas.voter-science.com/sheet/Index/e6f81e03af44436392ceaa909b5890cc

These urls are not secret. In other words, if user pastes this link into their browser, but does not have permission to the sheet, they will not be able to view the page.

In contrast, the secret canvas urls (which look like: https://canvas.voter-science.com/home/sheet?code=SECRET) , will grant permission to the current user, and then redirect (302) to a normal url with the sheet id.

If a secret URL is pasted in the browser, it will immediately do a permission check and then redirect (302) to a non-secret url. That ensures it’s safe to share urls you see in the browser.