Behavioural economics: How Obama's team nudged the voters

Crawford Hollingworth
The Behavioural Architects

The principles of behavioural economics have made a big impact on marketers' understanding of consumer behaviour. The same techniques have also been adopted in the world of politics. Here, Crawford Hollingworth describes how these principles were put into practice in the November 2012 US presidential election.

On 6 November 2012, Barack Obama was re-elected into the White House. Many have speculated on how he beat Mitt Romney and one of the key factors may have been how he made incredibly good use of insights from behavioural economics and psychology in his campaign.

Obama recruited a consortium of behavioural scientists for the 2008 election, asking them to pass on relevant research findings and ideas on creating effective behavioural change to his campaign team. The 2012 campaign built on that work, drawing heavily on tools from social science, not just in areas such as how to get people to vote, but in their research strategies as well1. Here are some of the clever interventions they used.

Mapping the behavioural journey of potential voters