Jen O’Malley Dillon on Thursday warned that disinformation will remain one of the biggest issues for campaigns to grapple with in future cycles and her worry is that too many campaigns won’t have the tools to deal with it.
Speaking on a virtual panel hosted by her former consulting firm, Precision Strategies, Biden’s campaign manager said at the presidential level the campaign was able to build new research tools that allowed them to track the sort of disinformation that was resonating with voters and then target those voters with specific messaging when needed.
“We were able to identify cohorts of voters, suburban women as an example, that were getting more disinformation and were influenced by it,” she said. “This continues to be a significant issue that we don’t have all of the tools as a campaign to solve for. You can’t ignore it.”
Going forward the vast majority of campaigns won’t have access to the sort of resources needed to even begin building in-house solutions and processes to combat disinformation. And conventional research tools like polling aren’t effective enough in this environment, she added: “We have seen for years that there’s a problem with polling and who responds to it.”
With that in mind, the Biden camp “stopped weighing our modeling on self-identified education on the calls we were having and instead went to Census track. That actually pulled down our numbers .. [to reflect] our support with different audience and it reflects expectations on turnout.”
It highlights just how in-demand both the tools and the expertise to track and combat disinformation will be in coming cycles. The Democratic firm Bully Pulpit Interactive is one that's attempting to step into that void launching a new service based on what it learned doing the same work for the Biden campaign. BPI's service is called Parry and the aim is to help campaigns determine what may actually be making an impact with their target audiences.
O’Malley Dillon, who is preparing to take the deputy chief of staff job in the Biden White House, also made some bullish predictions for Democrats, notably that the 2024 map would look significantly different with Texas again in her party’s sights. “Texas is a place that, frankly, gives us real opportunity.”
Some of the tactical details she discussed Thursday have been talked about by other Biden team members as they’ve fanned out to different post-election panels — including their use of artificial intelligence and chatbots to reach voters without known phone numbers or addresses.
O’Malley Dillon also hinted the traditional campaign headquarters may not be as vital in the future, even after the pandemic. She said going remote allowed the Biden campaign to hire talent who maybe couldn’t have moved to Philly: “We were able to attract talent from all different industries.”