Was Donald Trump's Surprise Victory Hidden In The Data?

Following Donald Trump's unexpected victory there is a dawning realisation that the Technology industry has missed something fundamental about the fears and motivations of the people who use its products.

If you’re shocked by Donald Trump’s election, you’re not alone, the president-elect surprised many people, including the pollsters who predicted a Hillary Clinton victory by wide margins. Since election night, pollsters, journalists, voters, and probably the folks over at the Clinton campaign have been trying to figure out how predictions about the election went so badly askew. 

Trump’s supporters were ‘Hiding’ in the Data

One of the surprises is the number of registered Democrats who supported Obama, only to cross over the party line this year to cast their votes for Trump.

But the crossover shouldn’t be a surprise at all, according to Brigade. The startup, founded by Sean Parker in 2015, lets its nearly 200,000 users pledge their votes to candidates and ballot measures, and cross-checks their identities against voter registration databases to make sure their data is authentic.

Back in September, Brigade CEO Matt Mahan says his team came across something unexpected. “We noticed this huge percentage of registered Democrats pledging to vote for Donald Trump,” Mahan explained. “We thought, we’re probably just getting conservative Democrats. What’s the big deal?”

The big deal became apparent as the election results rolled in. Nearly 40 percent of Brigade’s Democratic voters had pledged their votes to Trump and the pledges played out in battleground states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Brigade’s data on certain states turned out to more accurately reflect the outcome than the polling data used by FiveThirtyEight, which gave Trump only a 28 percent chance of winning the election. Trump ended up beating FiveThirtyEight’s prediction for North Carolina by 4.5 percent, and Brigade saw North Carolina voters who registered Democratic were 25 percent more likely to pledge their votes to Trump. The same thing happened in Pennsylvania: Brigade’s Democrats were 15 percent more likely to pledge for Trump, and Trump beat expectations by 4.9 percent.

“It’s interesting because we were seeing this phenomenon up to three months ago. It might have pointed to the fact that Clinton was much more vulnerable in the Rust Belt states than anyone expected,” Mahan said.

Trump also seemed to generate much higher enthusiasm among Brigade users than other candidates, which could explain the turnout among his supporters. Brigade lets its users write a short explanation of why they pledge to a particular candidate, sort of like an endorsement, that they can then share with friends. Usually, it’s a step in the process that users skip, only five to 10 percent of users normally complete the endorsement. Among Trump supporters, that metric skyrocketed to 80 percent.

If Brigade’s data was more accurate about this election than that published by the most respected election predictor in the country, why did the startup sit on it and not say anything?

Brigade’s employees were so surprised by the revelations that they thought their data was wrong

“We were so shocked by what we found,” Mahan explained. “We didn’t really trust the data. It was hard to be such an outlier as a product. We just thought our numbers are so off from all the national polls that we must be wrong. We must just be interacting with some weird corner of the internet of conservative Democrats.”

“I think the mistake was, we didn’t know until election night. We didn’t think there was information in our data that others had missed,” he added.

It’s a bittersweet realization for a San Francisco startup that’s staffed largely by liberals, who stayed up late on election night fretting about the results. And it’s a lesson for other pollsters, Brigade employees might have been too blinded by their political beliefs to take their own data seriously. The app’s users tend to skew conservative, so it was easy for Brigade to assume it wasn’t hearing from enough liberal voters. Brigade didn’t go back to the data and un-skew it to account for conservative bias until after the election results came in.

When  Mahan was asked what, if anything, he would have done differently now that he knows Brigade’s data was accurate and Trump will be sitting in the White House in a few months. Even though Brigade is a non-partisan company, it seems thet he  regretted keeping quiet.

Publish the Data

“We first noticed Democrats crossing over in September; we should have watched that trend for a few weeks, done the analysis, published a blog post, and pointed people to it at that time,” he said. “The Clinton campaign severely underestimated the risk they faced in the Midwest. I think this notion of registered Democrats in that region crossing over at unusually high rates, plus the higher enthusiasm we noticed, would have been a pretty important indicator of how things were likely to turn out.”

Shock.  Cybersecurity & IT Industery Reactions After Election

Silicon Valley’s luminaries woke up, Wednesday morning 9th November, to a darkened new global order, one that the ceaseless optimism of their tech-powered visions seemed suddenly unable to conquer.

Across the technology industry, the reaction to Donald J. Trump’s election to the presidency was beyond grim. There was a sense that the industry had missed something fundamental about the fears and motivations of the people who use its products, and that the miscalculation would cost the industry, and the world, greatly.

“The horror, the horror,” said Shervin Pishevar, a venture capitalist at the firm Sherpa Capital who, like just about every leading light in tech, had strongly supported Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. “We didn’t do enough,” he added. “There were too many people in the tech industry who were complacent. They waited and waited and waited to get engaged in this election. And now we have this nightmare.”

Others were more succinct in their devastation. “I’m heartbroken,” said Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of the corporate messaging service Slack.

For some, buried in the visceral reaction was also a realization that the tech industry’s relationship with government, not to mention the public, looks bound to shift in a fundamental way.

During the Obama years, Silicon Valley came to see itself as the economic and social engine of a new digital century. Smartphones and social networks became as important to world business as oil and the automobile, and Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft rose to become some of the most prosperous and valuable companies on the planet.

Mr. Obama, who rode many of these digital tools to the presidency, was accommodative of their rise; his administration broadly deferred to the tech industry in a way that bordered on coziness, and many of his former lieutenants have decamped to positions in tech.

Mr. Trump’s win promises to rip apart that relationship. The incoming president had few kind words for tech giants during the interminable campaign that led to his victory. Mr. Trump promised to initiate antitrust actions against Amazon, repeatedly vowed to force Apple to make its products in the United States, and then called for a boycott of the company when it challenged the government’s order to unlock a terrorist’s iPhone. Mr. Trump’s immigration plans are anathema to just about every company in tech.

Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft offered no immediate comment about Mr. Trump’s win, or how the new administration’s stated policy goals would affect their businesses.

But it seems clear that a shift is in the offing. Leaders of these behemoths have long spoken in ambitious, gauzy sentimentalities about a broadly progressive future. Their goals weren’t simply financial but, they said, philosophical and democratic, they wanted to make money, sure, but they also wanted to make the world a better place, to offer a kind of social justice through code. Theirs was a tomorrow powered by software instead of factories, and offering a kind of radical connectivity that they promised would lead to widespread peace and prosperity.

Last year, Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, published a broad rebuke of Mr. Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from immigrating to the United States. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive, told an audience of developers in April that “instead of building walls, we can help people build bridges.”

In private, during the campaign, many tech leaders were positive that their vision would prevail over Mr. Trump’s. When asked about whether they were preparing in any way for a Trump victory, bigwigs at many of the industry’s leading tech and financial firms were bemused by the notion. They thought it would never happen.

The deeper worry is that tech is out of step with the national and global mood, and failed to recognize the social and economic anxieties roiling the nation — many of them hastened by the products the industry devises.

Among techies, there is now widespread concern that Facebook and Twitter have hastened the decline of journalism and the irrelevance of facts. Social networks seem also to have contributed to a rise in the kind of trolling, racism and misogyny that characterized so much of Mr. Trump’s campaign.

And then you get to the economic problems. Unlike previous economic miracles, the tech boom has not led to widespread employment. Much of the wealth generated by the five biggest American tech companies flows to young liberals in California and the Pacific Northwest, exactly the sort of “global elites” Mr. Trump railed against in his campaign.

It’s not clear that most Americans see technological progress as the unalloyed good that it is considered in Silicon Valley. Technology has pushed so deeply into people’s lives, changing how they work and go to school and raise their children, that it could well raise more fears than hopes. A new smartphone is nice, but perhaps not if it means that your trucking job will be replaced by a big rig that drives itself.

“We need to figure out how to connect more Americans to the economic engine of technology,” said John Lilly, a partner at the venture capital firm Greylock Partners.

On Wednesday 9th November, some in Silicon Valley worried about their disconnection from the mass of voters who chose Mr. Trump.

“In tech, we need scale, so we look at the world through the lens of aggregate metrics like page views, active users and even revenue,” Danielle Morrill, the chief executive of a start-up called Mattermark, wrote in an email. “But that doesn’t mean we understand the people on the other side of the screen as individuals. That’s the danger, and the opportunity.”

Still, some people in tech said that despite their heartache over the outcome, they felt renewed inspiration to take bolder action to realize their progressive visions. Some made very big, idealistic proposals, this being, after all, the land of disruption. On Twitter, for instance, Mr. Pishevar said he would fund a campaign to get California to secede from the nation.

Others weren’t as high-flying, but were nevertheless resolute. Aaron Levie, the chief executive of Box, an online document storage company, suggested that the tech industry promote specific policy issues. “To shift to an economy driven by innovation from tech-enabled businesses, we need to get ahead on the issues we’ve been talking about in Silicon Valley for years, like education, patent reform and immigration reform,” he said. “By and large, minus taxes and some tax repatriation issues, much about Trump’s rhetoric has been antithetical to most of the big businesses that are driving the economy.”

Where the President-Elect Stands on Tech Issues

President-elect Donald Trump and President Barak Obama see eye-to-eye on at least one thing. They both view cybercrime as a massive threat to the citizens, the businesses, and the government of the United States.

Trump recently spoke to the Retired American Warriors PAC in Herndon, Va., and said "Cyber theft is the fastest growing crime in the United States by far. As president, improving cybersecurity will be an immediate and top priority for my administration. One of the very first things I will do is to order a thorough review of our cyber defenses and weaknesses."

Broadband/Net Neutrality

During the presidential campaign, Trump took no position on increasing access to the broadband. He did, however, briefly weigh in on the issue of Net Neutrality, objecting to the FCC’s Open Internet Order.
Trump provided another indication of his views on Internet regulation last month, when his campaign hired an aide to help him develop a telecom plan. The aide, Jeffrey Eisenach of the American Enterprise Institute, was described by Politico as "a crusader against regulation" and is a staunch opponent of net neutrality rules. 


Trump’s position is that he will begin an “immediate review of all US cyber defenses and vulnerabilities, including critical infrastructure, by a Cyber Review Team of individuals from the military, law enforcement, and the private sector.” 

According to his campaign site, the team will make recommendations for safeguarding various assets with technology designed to meet the most likely threats, will established defensive protocols and will provide awareness training for all federal employees. His plan is for the Justice Department to coordinate federal, state and local law enforcement cyberattack responses. 

And, according to Trump, he will look to the Defense Department for ways to enhance the US Cyber Command’s offense and defense capabilities.

Trump also proposes:

-    Mandatory cyber awareness training for all government employees while remaining current on evolving methods of cyber-attack.

-    Joint Task Forces created by the Department of Justice that would coordinate federal, state, and local law enforcement responses to cyber threats.

-    Order the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to provide recommendations for enhancing US Cyber Command, with a focus on both offense and defense in the cyber domain.

-    Develop the offensive cyber capabilities the US needs to deter attacks by both state and non-state actors and, if necessary, to respond appropriately.

NYTimes:   TechCrunch:  Information-Management:   Information-Management:   CSO Online:  

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