Campaigning: Data, Politics, Strategy


We are in the middle of a data revolution. Politics is not immune from its effects. Modern political campaigns have become increasingly data driven. The tools of data science are used to inform where campaigns compete, which messages they use, where they are targeted and how they are delivered.

Effective data-driven campaigns are becoming increasingly important. But there have also been big polling fails. How have surveys gotten some recent elections so wrong, and how do campaigns use them to target their campaigns and messaging?

Taught by lecturers with real-world experience as campaign consultants and survey researchers, this unit will focus on teaching students about survey design and data analysis, as well as the provision of professional political advice. Skills vital for the development of a career in politics, the media, government relations and competitive graduate-entry positions in the public service.

Run in a state-of-the-art lab, this subject combines rigorous scholarship with an applied focus to political science, survey research design and political analysis. Students will also have access to high profile guest lecturers from the University of Sydney, politics, the media and strategic consulting, including ABC election analyst Antony Green and YouGov-Galaxy director of political research Campbell White.

It provides students with the knowledge and skills to develop data-driven political strategy and advice, covering the tools used to run effective campaigns for not for profits, social movements and parties. It is also designed to help provide an understanding of how campaigns work, how they can influence electoral outcomes and government decision-making, and how data is used in this process. This is not only useful for the aspiring political campaigner, but for students studying political science, government, and journalism, who want to know how politics works and the role played by data.

Participants will be shown how political survey research works, how to write effective survey questions, and how to analyse polling results to develop political advice and strategy. We will field a sample of the best student-written questions in real surveys run in Australia and the United States, and use the data collected for in-class analysis.


Taught in Semester 2, 2019
1 x 2 hour class per week
View timetable


15% campaign memo plan (1000 words)
50% campaign memo/strategy (3000 words)
15% group survey design project (1000 words)
10% 5-10min group video presentation/pitch
10% participation

Courses that offer this unit of study

  • Graduate Diploma in International Relations
  • Graduate Diploma in Public Policy
  • Master of International Relations
  • Master of Public Policy

More details

Visit the University of Sydney website for information about fees, cross-institutional and non-award study, and more.

Unit coordinator