The British data-crunchers who say they helped Donald Trump to win

Are Cambridge Analytica brilliant scientists or snake-oil salesmen?

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Media Outlet: The Spectator

Paul Wood wrote for the Spectator about Trump's data science operation:

It’s the Brits wot won it. That is, the US presidential election was won for Donald Trump with the help of a bunch of British nerds — data scientists from a company called Cambridge Analytica. This was the claim, at least, made by the company in a press release a couple of days after the election. ‘No one saw it coming. The public polls, the experts, and the pundits: just about every-body got it wrong. They were wrong-footed because they didn’t understand who was going to turn out and vote. Except for Cambridge Analytica…’ Frank Luntz, a famous pollster and one of those so embarrassingly mistaken, said: ‘They figured out how to win. There are no longer any experts except Cambridge Analytica.’
Trump, it turns out, was not just a billionaire with a big mouth and a Twitter account. The ‘authentic’ candidate, the roaring id who supposedly disdained traditional campaign pollsters and consultants, had quietly hired this British company in June and paid them millions. Cambridge Analytica — named after the university: branding to appeal to US customers — say they bet on Trump when no one else would. The chief executive, Alexander Nix (Eton; Manchester), told me: ‘The American political market is the most competitive and hostile in the world. A lot of vendors refused to work for Trump because they didn’t believe he had a cat’s chance in hell of winning. Cambridge Analytica did the opposite. We invested in Trump.’

Author:

Paul Wood is an Eric & Wendy Schmidt Fellow at New America. He has covered a dozen conflicts in a 20 year career as a BBC foreign correspondent in: Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya, Darfur, Libya, Israel and the Palestinian territories, the Balkans, and Ukraine.