“Predicting Election Outcomes via NextStage’s TargetTrack” or “Why Dean Led, Kerry was Droll and Lieberman Foundered in 2004”

Note: This post was originally published as “An Evolution Technology Prediction Markets Case Study”


NextStage was approached late in September of 2003 by the Lieberman Presidential Campaign camp. At that time, Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) was running in the democratic Presidential primaries against a very large field, although the main contenders at the time boiled down to Senator Lieberman, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and Howard Dean (ex-governor, D-VT).

The question we were asked was whether or not NextStage’s Evolution Technology™ could help the Lieberman camp improve their standing. The first part of meeting this request involved determining if the Lieberman camp’s current efforts would be successful in the long run, and I won’t keep you in suspense; we determined they would not be successful and history has borne us out.

However, to demonstrate the first and second stage predictive capabilities NextStage’s TargetTrack™ was able to provide [[(as documented in Working with Prediction Markets via NextStage’s Evolution Technology and Reading Virtual Minds Volume 1: Science and History. Readers who’d like the entire NextStage 2004 campaign analysis should contact NextStage directly)]], this case study shows a competitive analysis of similar web pages from the Dean, Kerry and Lieberman websites. These pages evaluated included the Home page, some Issues pages and pages profiling (or “About”) the candidates. The goal was to use Evolution Technology™ to determine which audiences the candidates were targeting and capturing via their online media, and to determine likely outcomes based on the material being used.

The content used was from Monday, 28 Sept 2003. The information presented on the following pages constitutes a summary of Evolution Technology‘s assessment of these website pages and was our opinion. While not a case for why one candidate’s website or candidate his or herself might be outperforming another, the information contained herein was useful for that type of analysis. No suggestions for modifying any sites were contained herein.

Gender Capture

First, we looked at what the targeted demographics for the web content were. The first category, “Gender Capture” shown below, indicates the Percentages of overall gender that the combined web pages targeted (Male v. Female).

Gender Capture Comparison for Lieberman, Kerry and Dean on 28 Sept 03

Lieberman was reaching out to a largely (63%) Male audience. Dean was almost 50/50. None of the candidates were targeting the “Women” voters. What this indicated was that Dean was doing an excellent job of getting his message across to both men and women.

Age Group Capture

Next we evaluated the age groups that would best respond to the web site messages over all web pages combined (shown below).

Age Capture for Lieberman, Kerry and Dean on 28 Sept 03

This chart shows that the material in Lieberman’s site was reaching out to a primarily middle-aged demographic. Kerry had a larger portion of the younger age groups, while Dean had the largest demographic coverage, including a larger part of the “senior citizens” demographic. Ages under 15 are not included in these charts because of their insignificance in the election process.

Based on just these two charts alone, NextStage was able to determine that on 28 Sept 03 Lieberman was going to remain third man if this was the race.

Age Group Comprehension

Thus far we determined that Dean was communicating best of all the candidates’ websites we were analyzing.

However, appealing to the broadest audience means nothing if that audience can’t understand what you’re telling them. Answering that was done by determining which age groups could best comprehend or understand each candidate’s message as presented on their websites.

The chart below shows which age groups would most likely understand and respond to the candidates messages as of 28 Sept 03. Kerry and Lieberman’s content was understandable by a younger age group (lower education level) while Dean’s messages were designed for both a more mature and much broader audience. One way to look at this is that Lieberman’s and Kerry’s messages were stated much more simply than Dean’s.

Which Age Groups could best understand each candidate's messages?

Generally, Comprehension Capture numbers should be close to Age Capture numbers, indicating that the messages are more likely to be hitting their targeted audience. In mass marketing efforts such as politics, however, the goal is to be understood by the largest audience possible and this often means aiming for a lower education requirement on the part of your target. There is a problem in aiming for a lower education requirement, however. Too simple a message can come across as off-putting and patronizing.

Dean’s message, while requiring a higher degree of sophistication to understand, was very well targeted to the age groups he was capturing. This could partially explain his ability as an internet fund-raiser.

Message Strengths

Whether you’re a political candidate or a business promoting a product, unless you can get that message out in a way that makes sense for what you’re selling you’re not getting things done.

All politicians are good orators; it’s part of their job. But the goal is to be good at talking about what’s on the minds of people when you meet them. Lieberman had many strengths but they weren’t strengths people were interested in during the 2003-2004 primary season.

Message Strengths – 1 (below) shows that Lieberman’s strengths were his ability to show (Visual) people Comparisons (his ability as a debater and in confronting issues). Kerry was good at communicating who he was (Identity) and that he has a Process in Place to solve the problems he talks about. Even if he didn’t communicate the process specifically, he was giving the message that he knew what the process was. If you add this to the fact that his messages require the least education to understand (Age Group Comprehension above ), this adds up to a good market penetration.

Liebeman's strengths were his ability to show comparisons. Kerry's strength was that he had a process in place.

Dean was a successful fundraiser because he grabbed the broadest age demographic (Age Group Capture on page ) and had the most even gender capture (Gender Capture above). He was also communicating his ability to provide Order and Structure (as shown in Message Strengths – 2 below) way above the others. This strongly appealed to voters’ economic and national security issues at that time.

Dean's strength was his ability to communicate structure and order to a concerned, anxious nation

Perhaps the final blow to Lieberman in this three horse race was that both Dean and Kerry both were indicating they had a greater ability to move Toward and Upward, which translates as their ability to get the nation to a better place (literally, “higher ground”) as shown in the Message Strengths – 3 chart below.

Both Kerry and Dean were better able to communicate their ability to improve things


NextStage’s Evolution Technology demonstrated its ability to function as both a stage 1 and stage 2 Prediction Market during the 2003-2004 Democratic Presidential Primaries and again during the 2004 Presidential elections [[ and we continue to do so via our Politics blog]].

The first stage of a true prediction market is to determine what a likely outcome will be. The second stage, and usually the more important stage — is being able to explain why the outcome will be what is predicted and to suggest ways to alter undesired outcomes into desired outcomes.

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