Blog by Fen Wei
As most of us know, the result of the Democratic Iowa Caucus still remains unresolved even after days due to problems with the voting app software (as of this writing). In order to find out the actual mindsets of the different supporters during this fiasco, I decided to check out the subreddit groups for some of the top candidates between late February 4 (day of the Iowa Caucus) and February 5. Reddit is a goldmine for insights for any researchers, but especially for journalists and bloggers.
The problem with Reddit, however, is the daunting task of reading through the massive amount of information without some kind of a “Reddit Summarization” tool. Fortunately with Addy, an AI-powered research and writing tool, all I had to do for my research was copy the subreddit link or reddit search url and enter into the reddit API. Addy then did all the summarization for me (see below).
Addy provides various summarization charts, including a word cloud like the one below. Addy also allows users to filter all the content by top words, entities, emoji’s, sentiment, as well as top themes, making finding insights easy and fast.
App v.s. Paper
One of the interesting conversation streams was around the troubled app. The same app that was to be used in the Nevada Caucus on February 22. Reddit users questioned the rationale behind implementing the app. They offered a simple alternative for the Nevada Caucus.
“How about, wait for it...they use paper ballots.”[7*] (suggests a contributor on the subreddit, SandersForPresident)
“In Finland we still use paper ballots” [6*]
“As a software developer:
We should not be using computers to tabulate voting data. Use a paper and pencil and a box. We regularly f ... up every program we write and we shouldn’t be trusted.” [5*] (As a former software guy myself, I couldn’t agree more)
The question of why this app was implemented with such little testing would be a good topic for further research.
Shadow Inc and TextBanking
The company that produced the troubled app is Shadow Inc, which seems like an unfortunate name for a group that makes voting apps for a political party. Nonetheless, Pete Buttigieg’s campaign was using Shadow for another function called, “textbanking”.
“The company behind the app is called "Shadow Inc", a company that is only a few months old and the app was developed only about 2 months prior to Iowa, The company only consists of a very small handful of people, almost all of which are former Hilary/Obama staffers:” [8*]
“Shadow makes a lot of things that aren't the Iowa Caucus app (their mission is building apps for progressive causes). One of those is the app the Buttigieg campaign uses for textbanking” [9*]
In the midst of the initial chaos of the Iowa Caucus, Pete Buttigieg appeared to have prematurely declared victory before the final result could be sorted out, which angered a group of Bernie Sanders’ reddit supporters, “WayOfTheBern”. So, is Pete Buttigieg really a “Mayor Cheat” as pointed out by the Addy word cloud below?
Mayor cheat or Mayor data-driven
As of this writing, Mayor Pete was in the lead with 96% reporting by the slimmest of margins over Bernie Sanders. Here is how it played out on the subreddit groups prior to any formal announcements of the returns.
“No official numbers yet released. Both Bernie and Pete's campaigns released numbers from staffers in precincts that show they each won. Pete had way more coverage though (75% vs 40%) so his numbers appear reliable.” [10*]
“Sanders' campaign reports he is on top with Pete a close second, and Pete's campaign (with more precincts reporting) reports he is on top. So it's safe to say that Pete likely got first, if not a close second.” [12*]
“The thing is, we don't know which precincts Bernie's numbers are reporting out of. And likewise, I don't believe anyone has sat down and tallied the caucuses Pete reported results from. But then again we don't have any clue where Bernie's numbers are pulled from and lets be real, both sides probably have a slight bias in their tallies. I predict it will be very very close. Honestly, neither Pete nor Bernie will be killed with a very close second place finish - But Biden will be devastated now.” [13*]
“Best guess right now is Pete will come out on top, with Bernie a close second. Definitely Biden way underperformed which is a headline in itself.” [10*]
The intel from the subreddit groups seems to suggest that Pete Buttigieg made a calculated bet based on relatively good data when announcing himself the winner. His supporters seem well informed and his team was using data to gain prior insights to everyone else. This speaks well for his team and his methods. I have newfound respect for his candidacy given these insights. In my opinion he is not “Mayor Cheat” but a “Mayor Data Driven”.
Second choice is not good enough
In the Addy model for Elizabeth Warren, the term “Second Choice” seemed interesting so I explored further.
“Also, instead of calling her "Warren" on the phone, I'm going to switch it up to "Elizabeth" and see how that goes. I've never fully converted anyone over to Warren on the phone. I still don't really expect to do that, even though in Iowa, I did hear several "Warren's now my second choice," at the end of our calls. And that happened most often after I said something complimentary about their first choice candidate.” [14*]
Being the most popular “second choice” is a long shot in my opinion. It would not surprise me if Elizebeth Warren drops out of the race before Super Tuesday if she does poorly in New Hampshire, which is adjacent to her state of Massachusetts. In the past, Massachusetts senators usually have won the New Hampshire primary, namely JFK, Paul Tsongas, John Kerry.
These are some of my takeaways from Iowa Caucus by reviewing the subreddits of the leading candidates. Congratulations for reading to the end!
If you are a data-driven blogger or journalist, consider using Addy for your research and writing. In this instance, I used the Reddit data for research. Addy has the ability to be used with many other data sets.