Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: The Victory Lab by Sasha Issenberg

Title: The Victory Lab
Author: Sasha Issenberg
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Crown
Publish Date: September 11, 2012
Source: Netgalley

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You love politics.
What's the Story?:

From "Renegade thinkers are crashing the gates of a venerable American institution, shoving aside its so-called wise men and replacing them with a radical new data-driven order. We’ve seen it in sports, and now in The Victory Lab, journalist Sasha Issenberg tells the hidden story of the analytical revolution upending the way political campaigns are run in the 21st century.

The Victory Lab follows the academics and maverick operatives rocking the war room and re-engineering a high-stakes industry previously run on little more than gut instinct and outdated assumptions. Armed with research from behavioural psychology and randomized experiments that treat voters as unwitting guinea pigs, the smartest campaigns now believe they know who you will vote for even before you do.  Issenberg tracks these fascinating techniques—which include cutting edge persuasion experiments, innovative ways to mobilize voters, heavily researched electioneering methods—and shows how our most important figures, such as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, are putting them to use with surprising skill and alacrity.

Provocative, clear-eyed and energetically reported, The Victory Lab offers iconoclastic insights into political marketing, human decision-making, and the increasing power of analytics."

My Two Cents:

We're only a couple of months away from the elections here in the United States (this cannot come soon enough; I live in Maryland and we're being bombarded with nasty commercials because of Virginia being a battleground state... sigh). Anyhow, I thought that this might be an appropriate book for the election season.

This book gets into the nitty,gritty of ways that campaign planners and pollster can figure out how to win elections. It's an interesting study to say the least. I was really surprised at how many different ways there were to poll people in order to figure out how an election might go. There are so many creative ways that you can test the waters for your candidate as well as to win voters over.

I thought it was striking how many of the things in the book that the author prescribed in order to win elections are not being done right now. Some of the players from the ongoing campaigns may enjoy this book in order to get some fresh ideas.

I had a couple issues with the book though.

First, when I say nitty, gritty, I mean nitty, gritty. This book delved into a lot of various studies that social scientists and others had done and it was hard to follow along at times as just a casual election observer. There also wasn't a lot of flow between the author introducing one concept before moving on to another concept and I got lost several times. At times, the book feels like a series of footnotes. This book may be better suited for people who have already worked within the realm of polling or have a background in something like statistics.

Bottom line: This book is for someone who loves endless detail about political campaigns.  



  1. Whew -- I'll be glad when the elections are over! Though this sounds like an interesting read, I'm a little burnt out on politics at the moment. (And it doesn't help that we live next to the nation's capital, where it's all politics, all the time!)

  2. Oh geez, my husband loves this kinda nitty-gritty thing, I'm gonna have to grab this from the library for him!


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