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A lively and fascinating look at how a handful of academics, statisticians, and strategists are reshaping how political campaigns are won and lost
Renegade thinkers crash 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—which Politico has described as “Moneyball for politics”—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rocking the war room and re-engineering a high-stakes industry previously run on little more than gut instinct and outdated assumptions.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 insights from behavioral 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. The Victory Lab offers the secret history of modern American politics, pulling back the curtain on the tactics and strategies used by some of the era’s most important figures—including Barack Obama, Rick Perry, and Mitt Romney—with iconoclastic insights into human decision-making, marketing, and how analytics can put any business on the road to victory.
"The Victory Lab is a celebration of politics in which political science and those who apply it are heroes. Beautifully written and vigilantly researched, this book will inspire social science investigators to push their science to the next level. As raconteur-in-chief, Sasha Issenberg challenges students of politics, whether practitioners or academics, to become political entrepreneurs–and demonstrates that winning campaigns consist of both a gut-level understanding of politics and the careful analysis of scientific data. Ideas matter! Cheers to Issenberg for giving political scientists their belated due." –Lynn Vavreck, UCLA political scientist and author of The Message Matters
“A magnificently reported and wonderfully written book, full of eye-opening revelations and a colorful cast of characters whose groundbreaking strategies and tactics have injected 21st-century science into politics and changed it forever in the process. The Victory Lab is essential for anyone who wants to understand what really goes on along the campaign trail—and a delight for those who simply enjoy a terrific read.” —John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, authors of Game Change
“Sasha Issenberg cracks open the secretive realm of modern campaigns, revealing a revolution that is influencing not only who wins elections but also the fate of the nation. This is a terrific and important book.” —David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z
“Sasha Issenberg is our most acute observer of the modern political campaign. With vivid portraiture and crystal-clear prose, he takes us beyond the charge-and-counter-charge, the rallies and stump speeches, to show us the hidden persuaders. This is the politics you'll never see on the nightly news.” —Richard Ben Cramer, author of What it Takes