Stan Greenberg on the increasing influence of APIs in elections

The API Economist caught up with Stan Greenberg for a brief chat during his busy election season last October. Stan’s GQRR clients saw victories in US Senate and Congressional races, gubernatorial campaigns, state legislature races, local races, and ballot issues in the 2012 election season. He recently coauthored a book with James Carville entitled, “It’s the Middle Class, Stupid!“ 

The API Economist caught up with Stan Greenberg for a brief chat during his busy election season last October. Stan’s GQRR clients saw victories in US Senate and Congressional races, gubernatorial campaigns, state legislature races, local races, and ballot issues in the 2012 election season.

He recently coauthored a book with James Carville entitled, “It’s the Middle Class, Stupid!“ 

Originally interviewed October 25, 2012

 

API Economist: What do APIs mean to you?

Stan Greenberg: For me, APIs are apps. My entire life is driven by apps. As I step back, it’s hard for me to think of a function that’s not related to apps. For example, today we’re doing what’s called a Greenberg Carville Memo. That’s an email newsletter that’s sent out two, three, four times a week, depending on the political season. In the past we would send out e-alerts – an email blast to people. But this has now become a video format that James Carville and I create. And I just did one before coming in here. I’m using an app that I have here on my iPhone which allows me to easily shoot and package the video. It then gets uploaded to Box where it can serve subscribers to the newsletter with the video content. Through the power of APIs, apps have simplified the ability for James and me to quickly create engaging content for our subscribers. And we can do this while we are on-the-go!

API Economist: How has mobility impacted the way you do work?

Stan Greenberg: I was just in Israel last week because I am dealing with an election there. But I also have to deal with an election here. We do a poll for NPR and it used to be that we’d go into the NPR studios and try to have the two pollsters, one Republican, one Democrat, being interviewed at the same time by Mara Liasson in order to do the story. Being in Israel, I could have the phone conversation to hear the questions. They use an app to record it and turn it into the material that is used for the piece. Then for the interview, it sounds as live as our earlier interviews, but we don’t contemplate even ever being on the same continent.

Another example is the iPad app for the Labor Party conference in Manchester (UK). Gone are the days of carrying huge binders around. During the conference, I was using the app to get alerts on any changes or updates to the events or subjects I’m interested in. I also use the app as my guide to get directions on how to get from meeting to meeting. The app is now the way I organize my time. It’s become indispensable.

API Economist: As the electorate is becoming more and more digitally connected and mobile, how do you see this affecting modern polling techniques?

Stan Greenberg: We are about to face the biggest transformation in polling. I think we’re in a “Literary Digest” moment when polling was fundamentally changed in the 1930s. The Literary Digest conducted a straw poll of their readers predicting the likely outcome of the 1936 presidential election. Although they had a huge sample size in the millions, their polling techniques had erroneous assumptions on those who did and did not respond. And they completely got it wrong. The debacle lead to modern polling techniques that relied on much smaller surveys of scientifically chosen representative samples that are still used today.

Right now, the big thing that’s causing change is the explosion of mobile devices. These smartphones are becoming more affordable and app usage is dominating their appeal. Half the polls that are done today do not utilize cell phone calls. For one, it costs more. Also, a lot of the polling was IVR (interactive voice response) automated polling, which seemed to be where the future was going. However, it’s illegal to place an automated IVR call to a cell phone in the US under US law. Half the polls out there use automated IVR and are missing cell phone users. But the trend to reach the American electorate will be through cell phones and smart phones. I predict APIs and the apps they empower will accelerate this trend and how modern polling will change to keep up.

API Economist: How has the app economy affected your personal life?

Stan Greenberg: So many things are easier but I don’t get personal happiness…[laughter]. But getting around DC is so much easier with Uber. Not needing coins to pay for parking is very handy. So much of this app economy is word of mouth. Everyday someone is saying, “Have you seen this app?” Apps are truly everywhere and in every part of our lives.

API Economist: Thanks for taking with us from your busy election schedule.

Stan Greenberg: Thank you! And good luck with the blog.