2016 Presidential Staffers — A Look at the Data

What’s the big idea?

Yesterday, National Journal released its TwentySixteen Staffer Tracker, a tool that allows us to see a list of each of the 2016 presidential candidate’s staffers (albeit an incomplete one). Although it shows the most popular former workplaces for each campaign’s staff, I felt like some more detailed data analysis and visualization was in order. Specifically, I wanted to see how the campaigns compare in terms of gender breakdown and staffer type (field, comms, etc.). Here’s what I found:

Staff Gender Breakdowns

Democrats

Hillary Clinton’s campaign clearly has the edge over Bernie Sanders in terms of gender equality, although part of that is because Hillary has many times more staffers working for her than Bernie does. Nevertheless, Bernie is lagging Hillary in the female vote, and the gender gap in his campaign may be part of the problem (or perhaps a result of it).

Republicans

The Republican field is about what you would expect. Staffers are predominantly male, with Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio tied for the “most women” award with 22.2% each. Not great numbers, and much lower than Hillary’s 42.2%. Republican candidates might benefit from hiring smart female staffers overlooked by the other campaigns (or perhaps there simply are none willing to work on Republican campaigns!).

Not surprisingly, Donald Trump has exactly zero women on his campaign. Rand Paul also clocks in at nil. Libertarianism notoriously has its base among white men, and Paul’s campaign seems to be no exception to this rule, which is unfortunate if he hopes to appeal to a larger audience in the general election or even in the primary.

Staffer Type

Democrats

The data confirm what reporters and Democratic campaign types have known for a while — Hillary’s campaign is big on communications, while Bernie Sanders is focusing on running field operations in a few key early states like Iowa and New Hampshire. The advantage here goes to Hillary. For all the credit Bernie’s campaign deserves for its surge in those early states and 10,000 person rallies, it will be hard to get the message out to a wider audience with only one digital person, one comms staffer, and one person making ads.

Bernie will almost certainly have to hire more comms staff soon — in this day and age, it’s just unacceptable to send out an email about Citizens United but nothing about Obergefell v. Hodges on the day of the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision. Similarly, his campaign tweeted about Medicare half an hour after the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team won the World Cup, and never said anything about the American victory.

Meanwhile, Hillary’s campaign has been incredibly effective on social media, especially with respect to gay marriage. By all measures, Hillary is running an excellent social media campaign (see her comment on the Humans of New York Facebook page). Without a serious investment in social media, the Bernie Sanders campaign will soon be left behind.

Republicans

A few things jump out when looking at the Republican field’s breakdown of advisers. Jeb Bush’s campaign, Rand Paul’s, and Scott Walker’s all look similar, with an emphasis on high-level advisers and strategists. This makes sense for Jeb, given his family network, but it is somewhat more surprising for Paul and Walker, who are more insurgent-type candidates.

Notably, Rand Paul and Scott Walker only have one communications person apiece, and a similarly lackluster digital presence. This would explain why I have seen next to nothing about their campaigns on social media, although Walker has been successful at getting his name into the press.

Rubio and Cruz’s emphasis on state-level field operatives is interesting, although I can’t say it seems to be paying dividends yet. Perhaps more intriguing is Jeb Bush’s five policy advisers, more than any other candidate in the race. This could either be an attempt to bone up on his policy chops since he’s been out of office for some time or a reflection of his actual love for policy (which certainly seems to be what his campaign wants us to think). Perhaps it reflects a confidence that he will win and be President in a couple of years. Time will tell whether this is a smart move in a crowded Republican primary.

Lastly, a word about Donald Trump is in order. I was not expecting him to have as strong a state-based presence as he does. Although his campaign is clearly less well-established than the other candidates, this may signal his seriousness about competing on the ground and not just in the media.

Conclusions

There are a few easy conclusions to draw from this data. First, Bernie Sanders needs to invest in communications and digital staff to remain competitive. Every moment wasted is a lost opportunity to build grassroots support among potentially pivotal groups. This is especially true with respect to young people, who could be a great base of support for Bernie’s campaign, but who largely (anecdotally speaking) view Hillary as more in touch with their lives, especially on social issues.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump is potentially more serious than many people think. In general, no candidate seems better positioned than Jeb Bush, whose large warchest has allowed him to hire staff for essentially every facet of the campaign.

Methodology

I aggregated the data for the two major Democratic campaigns — Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — and six top Republican campaigns — Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, and of course Donald Trump. Then, I coded each staffer with a gender, which I assigned based on their names (so there may be some minor mistakes, probably no more than one person per candidate on average). Next, I looked at each staffer’s title to see which part of the campaign they fell into.

Note that some staffers do not fit squarely into one box. For example, it was difficult to tell whether many state-level staff would best be coded as “field” or “adviser/strategy.” For the most part, I went with “field” when coding people like state directors, since it was a good way of getting a look at the candidate’s presence on the ground. Meanwhile, I took “adviser/strategy” to mean primarily a high-level, national campaign adviser. Your mileage may vary, and I welcome suggestions and comments on this page or at michael.j.irvine@gmail.com.

This article was originally published on my blog at https://mjirvine.wordpress.com/2015/07/09/2016-presidential-staffers-a-look-at-the-data/.

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