Guide to Political Data

I wrote this up for staff on Jon Ossoff for Senate’s Community Mobilizer program and figured I would save it here. The audience is (mostly) people who know about field and want to get into data. This mostly serves as a reference to other quality guides.

Relevant Skills

  1. Spreadsheets – I avoid them when I can, but they’re often unavoidable. You’ll save yourself some headaches if you know the basics: vlookup, importrange, filter, query.
  2. SQL – on a campaign, you’ll probably work in the DNC Phoenix platform (on Google’s BigQuery) or in Civis Platform. I’m more familiar with the former, but I’ve heard Civis has some powerful features that Phoenix doesn’t have. I built the dashboard using Google Data Studio, which hooks into BigQuery data.
  3. Data Communication – How do you communicate data effectively? How do you make data actionable? What metrics are useful, not just interesting or cool? How do you use design principles (color, layout) to guide users towards the most actionable information?
    • I think this is what makes the difference between a good and great political data practitioner: anyone can learn the “harder” skills like spreadsheets and SQL!
    • Coming from field, much of this will probably come second-nature to you :)
  4. … from there, sky’s the limit. Start by learning the basics of a programming language, R or Python. Learn about modeling (learn how turnout and support scores are built) and dive more deeply into data visualization (how do you tell a compelling story with data?).

Political Data Bootcamps & Courses

  1. https://www.generationdata.org
  2. https://repower.org/courses/
  3. https://changethegame.io/ (VAN, Google Sheets, SQL)
  4. https://arena.run/academy (has a data track)
  5. WFP SQL Training Slides

General Data Skills

There are many options to learn SQL/R/Python – choose one and stick with it!

  1. https://www.dataquest.io/
  2. https://www.datacamp.com/
  3. https://www.codecademy.com/learn/learn-sql
  4. https://www.khanacademy.org/computing/computer-programming/sql

Resources

  1. Progressive Data Jobs Resources (job boards, other courses):
  2. Overviews of Political Data / Tech
  3. HGL Political Tech Landscape
  4. Joining politics as a techie –
    • BlueBonnet Data places volunteer data fellows onto campaigns.
    • DigiDems embeds full-time tech/digital/data talent on the most competitive races.
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Joshua Kravitz

I’m a data enthusiast looking to make a difference.