Yesterday’s politicians will envy the online data that future candidates and office bearers will routinely use to curb their losses and guide their victories. When former US president Bill Clinton delivered his first state of the union address to a joint session of Congress on February 17 1993, Jack Dorsey was 16 years old and his peer, Mark Zuckerberg, was only eight years old. Just days after the address, Stanley Greenberg, Bill Clinton’s polling adviser, entered the White House to deliver the public’s response to the newly elected president’s address. In his book, Dispatches from the War Room, Greenberg recounts how he delivered the news to the president that two-thirds of the American public were in favour of the economic programme he had outlined in his address. Sitting in the Oval Office, Greenberg handed Clinton a pile of postcards from residents of Dayton, Ohio, who were asked to write to the president immediately after watching his speech. It was an opportunity for ordinary...

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