For decades, news coverage of U.S. presidential elections has been focused on the so-called “horse race” — polls, predicted outcomes, fundraising — rather than on the policy issues that ultimately matter most.
The Electome, a project of the Laboratory for Social Machines at the MIT Media Lab, was created with the aim of changing this. About a year ago, with generous support from the Knight Foundation and Twitter, we launched this effort to make sense of the sprawling democratic conversation driven by new technologies, social media in particular. We did not set out to ignore the traditional horse race, which is impossible. But our focus would be the issues, or what we call the Horse Race of Ideas. We would do this mostly through the prism of Twitter, which hosted the largest public conversation about this election, often serving as the nerve center of the campaign.