Political Research: Not Just for Nerds

Political Research

Political Research Still Welcomes Nerds Too!

So you studied political science in college and read fascinating theories about politics, social movements, theories of change and a whole host of other things.  Now, freshly graduated, what are you going to do with your degree? You could go work on a campaign at an entry-level position, knocking on doors, answering calls, processing donations or other data. These are all valuable and worthy endeavors (I’ve done all of them at one point or another), but if you really enjoyed the “science” part of your political science major, this can be a really exciting time for you: Welcome to the world of political research!

In a post-Obama campaign world, there are many places for people interested in the research and analytics aspect of politics. Does qualitative research suit your fancy? Look into interning with a polling firm and see if you can sit in on any focus groups; they’re fascinating. Want to figure out how political campaigns choose their targeted audience? Look into data and targeting positions on campaigns, or voter file software companies that provide campaigns with tons of data on voters. Do you want to get really wonky and come up with your own policy ideas for fairer, more democratic elections? Join one of the many think tanks, like the Voter Participation Center or Brennan Center for Justice.  These groups not only have smart people thinking, they have a lot of experience doing as well. Like digging up dirt on people? Can you file a FOIA request in your sleep? Join a campaign as a tracker, or intern at a political research firm and begin your opposition research fantasy.

Finally, if none of the above avenues suit your political research dreams in particular, consider political communications research. There are tons of exciting opportunities to explore using the scientific method to test various voter communications strategies. Some firms, like ours, often run A/B tests and participate in studies with academic partners to ensure the efficacy of our advertising. Bottom line, there are several groups dedicated to applying scientific data to various forms of voter communications.

So, let us know if you are interested in pursuing a career in political research in the comments section below, and we’ll get a dialogue going!

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