Is big data really something new, or is it simply a new name for the same old data that social scientists, government agencies, and market research companies have relied upon for years? These are questions a lot of people are asking these days, especially when it comes to the use of voter and consumer information in political campaigns.

James G. Gimpel, professor of government at the University of Maryland, College Park, spoke at Bowdoin about his research into voters and donors using big data and address the ways in which political campaigns are now using very large files to make inferences about voters’ attitudes and behaviors. He will explain the serious problems and pitfalls that we have not yet overcome in many of these efforts – from using data to microtarget voters by their presumed political interests, to creating large prospect lists for fundraising, to using data for random control trials.

Gimpel has served on the faculty at the University of Maryland since 1992. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago. His research has focused on political behavior, campaigns and elections, public opinion and immigration politics and policy.