The current (November 2014) United States election reminds us that sophisticated data science techniques are employed on the public in attempt to influence opinion and persuade votes. The slick television advertising, debate prevarications, and policy position distortions and exaggerations have soured many citizens on the current state of modern democracy. Indeed, most feel we are not getting the straight scoop - the real positions and policy agendas - and our pool of public candidates and leaders is mediocre at best. The best and brightest avoid public office and it shows.
When Winston Churchill said "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter" he likely was referring to low-information voters as well as bad and biased information provided to voters to help them select political leaders and policy goals.
Michael Malak provides great insights in his blog post "Data Science for Reverse Democracy" about the use and misuse of data science by politicians to obtain more votes to win elections.
Brother Malak makes the case that data science today is being misused to invert traditional consent-of-the-governed democratic theory. The way democracy should work is the candidate or political leader states publicly their agendas and policy goals and hope voters ratify those goals in an election. Or an elected official does what he or she wants, then let voters approve or reject. This creates political accountability - vital to the health of democracy.
Yet strong evidence suggests the modern political class has subverted accountability. The way it really works is politicians cloak agendas in some mystery - use data science to tailor different specific messages to different segmented citizens (telling each segment what they want to hear) - then does what they desire anyway, even if a majority of voters reject the agenda disclosed. What this produces is a confused citizenry who have little to no idea what the candidate or political leader really believes and what in fact are the policy goals. As a result the polity finds it difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish political signal from noise.