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U.S. Elections: Who is Winning and At What Price

Verb decided to analyze “cui bono”, or who profits from the onslaught of negative messaging during election season in the US. For all the negativity, a positive trait of our analysis is that political campaigns offer an accurate way to gauge impact: in communications terms, speeches (or tweets) are “activities”, media coverage is “output”, and votes are “outcomes”, of which over 41 million have already been cast in the race. As opposed to primary delegates, which are assigned following arcane rules that vary by party and state, votes provide a fair way to compare how the different candidates are doing in terms of communication outcomes. Thus, we calculated a rough approximation of the return on investment for each candidate by dividing the total money they spent by the total votes they accumulated through May 3rd (See figure 1).

Figure 1: A Great Deal. Sources: Politico and The New York Times

We found a very broad disparity between candidates: Sanders has spent $18 for each of his hard-earned votes, while at the other end of the spectrum, Trump has spent $4. Hillary is somewhat in the middle with $13, albeit closer to Sanders (Cruz has since dropped out). While the many controversies fueling Trump’s campaign will no doubt haunt the candidate during the general election, so far he has spread his message on the cheap. Analysts have dismantled most of Trump’s messaging, but one important bit remains mostly unopposed: his claim that the US economy is in terrible shape. As President Obama has said, the US has the world’s largest GDP, grows fastest than most rich countries, has only 5% unemployment and 3% deficit, but still “how people feel about the economy is influenced by what they hear”.


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