Magonova and Partners

What data do the politicians take as a basis for making a decision?

What data do the politicians take as a basis for making a decision?

What happens when a separate individual gets into a position with colossal power, workload, and responsibility? When, for example, he goes from а COO position from business to politics, or at one point moves from the middle tier of politicians to the big league. What is the first transformation that is added to the new status?

First of all, the cost of decisions.

The feeling of power, influence, and personal ambition is always supplemented by constant struggle, and the need for a balance of interests between stakeholders, and constant monotonous pressure, all along the vertical of power. At the same time, you need to constantly make decisions that affect millions of citizens.

If there is so much at stake for politicians and the price of decisions is so high, how are crucial decisions made? What data is being used as the ground base, in what context, and, probably, most importantly, how does the new data fit into the already existing picture of the world of an individual politician or decision-maker of the highest rank.

There are a few notable details to reflect on the quality of the information that leaders process and analyze.

First of all,  what’s the data which the worldview is based on? 

We are used to thinking that a state top manager knows everything and understands the main macroeconomic trends, can briefly explain at what stage of formation the world economy, and the economy of his country relatively to it.

In the book “Factfulness”, Hans Rosling cites several examples based on his poll of politicians in Davos and numerous polls of politicians in different countries from the United States to Sweden and Turkey. To be short, only 9.3% of respondents, including politicians, can correctly answer the question of whether the number of the world's population living in extreme poverty has become larger, smaller, or the same proportion (halved in the last 20 years), what are the average life expectancy in the world (70 years) and other basic questions. According to Hans, the accuracy of the answers of the chimpanzees is slightly higher, about 33%. He also clarifies that the problem is deeper — since a misconception of the world is ingrained in a person even a new stream of information and statistical facts cannot always change it. It is important to constantly test your ideas about the world by confirming it with actual data, and not with assumptions or fantasies.

Secondly, what data resources politicians use today and how?

How do we know what is happening around us? Who and what thinks of us, what worries our target audience, has the market share increased or decreased?

Whole departments of analysts, statisticians, PR bring their client a large set of numbers, summaries, charts, and trends. Probably 80% of the offered information has no value for the final stakeholders, except as a signal that a lot of time has been spent on the entire analysis and, therefore, everything needs to be shown to the client for his confidence in the work.

Out of the rest 20% that 5% of the main metrics that really signal the progress or degradation of the process are the data you would like to get your attention into. 

For a systematic understanding of the situation, it is enough to build a simple but understandable structure of the most important data and metrics for the stakeholders.

Delving deeper into the issue of data that appears in numerous reports and directly affects policymaking, there are two main questions - how is data collected and analyzed and how is it interpreted by the stakeholders?

Each of the three steps of working with data increases or decreases the chance that stakeholders really understand the state of affairs, close to reality.

Currently, there are no such capacities to know exactly what every person in the state thinks on this or that occasion, or whom it will choose if elections are held tomorrow. Typically, agencies conduct a variety of surveys that show a snapshot of data on a particular issue. For many years such a system for obtaining real data was almost the only one, but today it is hopelessly outdated.

First, the creation of a poll, the work with the sample, and the way of interpreting the data already means that even with such a short slice, the data will be “manipulated ”.

Secondly, the real accuracy and relevance of such data are lost immediately after the evening news release and a new sensation.

Third, different ways of interpreting this data can lead to very different conclusions.

Over the past few years, Big Data areas have been actively introduced into political decision-making processes. One of the monumental books in this direction is “Electorate Hacking ” by Eitan Hersh. There, as in his numerous interviews, he talks primarily about the main innovations in politics - the analysis of public data from registers / social networks and other resources completely replaces opinion polls, which, as we already know, are very limited in nature.

If you want to understand how your electorate lives, the most discussed topics in society, what they think of you, it is recommended to trust the computing power of algorithms more than volunteers who collect answers to the questions out of context.

Last but not least, how information is used every day.

The most important thing is when the top himself understands what information is important to him and what metrics he is guided by. If there is a skill in which it is more important for a politician to navigate than ever, it is data-based decision-making.  The more decisions are based on qualitatively collected data, the better the calculation of the real effect and real risks associated with the decisions made.

As a result, a leader who constantly questions his view of the world and confirms or refuses it based on real data and uses the results of big data when making decisions will automatically be ahead of his opponents by several levels. Opponents, who very often perceive the world through books that they read in school and make decisions based on charts that they do not understand.