A State Legislator's Data-Driven Approach to Inbound Messages

October 17, 2017

To State Del. Andrew Platt, it’s extremely important to keep a pulse of what his constituents are talking about. In order to do so, his team tracks analytics of the messages that reach his inbox. Here’s how tracking analytics of constituent messages allowed Platt to make an informed vote on Maryland House of Delegates’ proposed fracking ban.

Compare the Volume

While overall volume is important to Platt to see what issues his constituents care about, the relative volume compared to other periods of time is also important so his team can flag spikes in the conversation.

“If it’s a Tuesday in the third week of legislative session and we get 90 messages on the fracking ban that we just passed this past session, I can say, oh wow that’s a lot, folks in the district really care about banning fracking in the state of Maryland,” Platt said.

Map the District

Platt represents Maryland’s 17th district which includes the two cities of Rockville and Gaithersburg. As a result, the district is not always consistent across the board in its views on certain issues. With his team tracking where each message on fracking originated in the district, Platt could see whether the views on the issue spanned the full district or were narrow to a certain city or town within the region.

“We think [tracking by location] gives us a more nuanced view of the district and the constituency and maybe their top priorities and what they are paying attention to in the legislature,” Platt said. “[Knowing that information] is good because if I go back and do a town hall in a part of the district I might expect more questions based on the inbound messages and the volume and the proportions in one part of the district on an issue.”

Weigh the Pros and Cons

While Platt certainly doesn’t pick sides on an issue simply based on which advocates wrote in more to his office, tracking which side of an argument that messages fall on allows him to keep tabs on his voters’ views. Issue polling is not typically done at the state district level, so this strategy gives Platt the chance to get a measurable view of which side of an argument his district falls on.

By tracking analytics, Platt is able to go beyond just what issues are most important, but whether his constituents want him to support or oppose a given proposal.

Bottom Line:

As a millennial in state politics, Platt is looking to change the status quo for the intersection of technology and governing. Tracking more advanced analytics for inbound messages is one way he is achieving that goal, and he advises it as a best practice for those looking to have a more accurate pulse of his or her constituents.

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