Published on Development Impact

Randomizing political campaigns - Rick Perry's 2006 election strategy

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The New York Times political blog has just posted an interview between David Leonhardt and Sasha Issenberg about Issenberg’s forthcoming book on Presidential candidate Rick Perry’s campaign method. Notable is the use of randomized experiments in campaigning:

“As the 2006 election season approached, the governor’s top strategist, Dave Carney, invited four political scientists into Perry’s war room and asked them to impose experimental controls on any aspect of the campaign budget that they could randomize and measure. Over the course of that year, the eggheads, as they were known within the campaign, ran experiments testing the effectiveness of all the things that political consultants do reflexively and we take for granted: candidate appearances, TV ads, robocalls, direct mail. These were basically the political world’s version of randomized drug trials, which had been used by academics but never from within a large-scale partisan campaign.

The findings from those 2006 tests dramatically changed how Carney prioritized the candidate’s time and the campaign’s money when Perry sought re-election again in 2010 and will inform the way he runs for president now.”

The interview goes on to note they even randomized Perry’s travel schedule across Texas over a few days and combined this with rapid polling to learn just how important presence in a city was.

Question for our readers, especially the political scientists: anyone know whether the results all stayed proprietary to the campaign, or have academic papers been written about these results?



David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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