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2016, September, 27 publication

Measuring Fieldwork Feature

Performance measurement of data-driven fieldwork

Phone banking

Data-driven fieldwork is rapidly emerging as a significant form of election campaigning in Australia. The recent double dissolution campaign set a new high water mark, with no fewer than six separate fieldwork campaigns conducted by political parties, independent candidates and third-party organisations.

What did they do? And did it have any effect? To help answer such questions, as part of a wider study of fieldwork campaigning in Australian elections, this blog pulls together the claims made by the various campaign organisations about their fieldwork efforts. (The data comes from a variety of scattered sources, and there are still a few gaps, so additions and corrections are welcome.)

In ‘data-driven fieldwork’ – also called Obama-style micro-targeting - the older traditions of grassroots community organising and personal narrative are combined with still-emerging applications of digital information and communications technologies, in order to achieve ever more efficient targeting of messages at persuadable voters.

It is both capital- and labour-intensive. So to understand what is going on,

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2016, May, 4 publication

Australian Prime Ministers: the first 50 years

Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin (source: Wikimedia commons)

My review of an important new book on the Australian Prime Ministership has just been published in the Australian Book Review (May, 2016). Forget the weird cover of the book; the content is fascinating and important. The authors are Paul Strangio, Paul 't Hart and James Walter. They weave together the emergence of the office of Prime Minister (a process of historical institutionalism) with the role and impact of the individuals who occupied it (a process of human agency, or leadership). Here is a link to the review in ABR (though to be fair, you should subscribe: it's a great mag). And anyway, here is the review:

In the early years after Federation ...

... Australia’s first Prime Minister Edmund Barton, was accommodated on the top floor of the Victorian Parliament in Spring Street, in a converted garret. At the end of a parliamentary day, the convivial Barton would invite ministerial colleagues up to the flat where they would talk long into the night. Then, as one Senator later recalled, before going home they would cook chops and make billy tea in the open fireplace ‘in bush fashion.’

Could any of our current leaders boil a billy? Is an open fire in the PM’s suite even allowed? Perhaps in this sense our system of government has lost something useful. Prime Ministers are better accommodated these days, but they’ve lost the bucolic capacity to resolve policy over a barbequed chop and a cup of tea.

This book traces the emergence of the office of the Prime Minister over five decades, from its billy tea origins to become the predominant political office in the Australian system. At a simple level, it’s a history of ‘firsts’:

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2015, November, 16 publication, book

Parties and Campaigning


My new chapter on parties and election campaigns has been published (at last!). It's part of a great new collection of scholarly articles about Australian political parties (details below). I'm trying to show just how central the party officials are to the contemporary campaign model. Here's an excerpt: 

"In pursuit of electoral success, national party officials responded to what they understood as the logic of electoral competition, which rewards campaigns that are centralised, strategic and well-resourced. They accordingly set about coordinating campaigns from the centre – from the national Head Office – to put in place consistent and unified campaign communications and efficient targeting of campaign resources. They exploited new marketing techniques to inform their victory-oriented campaign strategies, and rapidly changing communications technologies to shape their message and extend their reach into the electorate. They also needed to locate and develop new sources of funding to pay for these new tools. In responding...

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Stephen Mills