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Political Impact per Dollar Spent

I am surprised that sometimes billionaires can be so stupid: Gerobak dan Upaya Perindo Menjadi Partai Merakyat

Handing off free gimmicks like that is really an old and overused tactic in a very boring political playbook. I guess business acumen does not necessarily translate to political acumen (if wealth accumulation in Indonesia use smarts at all! I’m looking at you, rent-seekers).

If we want to accumulate votes in the upcoming elections, what will be the best way to spend our budget to achieve the most political impact per dollar spent?

I will start with market characterization. Not all voters are equal. Not all regions are equal too. Generally, the elasticity of dollar spent is different per type of voters. For voters who naturally supports a party, more money spent will not increase the vote from them. They already give their vote for us, because, well, one person one vote. For that party’s natural enemies, increasing dollar spend will not make them change allegiance. Maybe it can, but the cost would be excessively prohibitive. Not a good decision. Hence we need to focus on the swing voters as they would give the best vote per dollar. We should also start to garner support from low hanging fruits, such as regions which we could easily win over. Every seat at the house of representatives or executive political office, whether it’s on national, provincial, or regencies/cities matters. No matter how large our budget, it can be drained if we are using it to win political victory at national level. The logistics are just nightmarish. So we should start with regions which are easy to win and we can gain political momentum for each seat won over.

After we characterize the market, we also need to characterize our interventions. Money politics, aside from being unethical, is losing its effectiveness too. The amount of money we need to pay per vote will increase as the local GDP and education level increase. At some point, money politic will even backfire. So we should not follow the old players playing by the old rules. We should identify alternative strategies that would use our budget that can yield the mist political impact per dollar spent. For this, we need empirical research.

Tactics and strategies can vary. Will face to face meeting solicit more votes? Will internet ads be more effective? Will out-of-election-cycle social responsibility projects win the heart of the voters for elections years ahead? We have many more unexplored options that, once uncovered,  will jumpstart the new age of political engagement in Indonesia.

With good experimental design, we can obtain validated hypotheses that are very valuable to optimize the win rate of our party. We can beat billionaires that are too lazy to do this and think that capital can substitute insight. No, capital cannot substitute insight. No matter how large the starting capital is, with low political impact per dollar spent (which is the different ways to utilize that money), those capital might just as well be vaporized into thin air due to folly.

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