The power of AI-driven data analytics became evident in the 2012 and 2016 US election campaigns. In 2012, Obama's team used AI and big data to innovate voter targeting. In 2016, Trump's team used it to identify specific voter segments and tailor outreach strategies.
Previously, AI has been used to deliver personalized campaign messages and write emails. But, with the rapid development of AI, generative AI tools will feature prominently in the 2024 US elections. They can offer several advantages for political parties and candidates, including predictive analysis, automated outreach, personalized advertising, etc. And, we are already witnessing its impacts (discussed below).
The flexibility, cost-efficiency, and velocity of AI-generated content will drive political parties to harness this technology to develop and create influential campaign materials. For instance, AI-driven deep fakes and audio generation models can be used to criticize competitors using satire, sarcasm, and propaganda.
According to US Congresswoman, Yvette Clarke, generative AI will impact the elections significantly. She recently said,” The upcoming 2024 election cycle will be the first time in U.S. history where AI-generated content will be used in political ads by campaigns, parties, and Super PACs. If AI-generated content can manipulate and deceive people on a large scale, it can have devastating consequences for our national security and election security.”
Let’s explore how generative AI will potentially affect the 2024 US presidential elections.
1. AI-Generated Campaigns
Currently, both Republican and Democratic political engineers are in a competitive race to capitalize on the latest AI tools before their rivals.
Recently, the Republican National Committee (RNC) utilized an AI art generator to create an advertisement that shows a dystopian future under Biden’s weak leadership after his recent re-election bid announcement.
This demonstrates how political entities can leverage AI technology in a time-sensitive and resource-efficient manner to effectively communicate their narrative.
Generative AI in politics will free political workers from repetitive tasks to focus on more critical campaign aspects. However, bad actors can use the same tools to generate misinformation to interfere in elections.
2. Precise Audience Targeting
Election campaigns are particularly meant to engage fence-sitters or swing voters and encourage them to vote in order to prevent an election upset.
The April 2023 survey shows that 6% of voters were undecided, with 43% supporting Biden, 41% favoring Trump, and 10% preferring another candidate. Hence, undecided voters are expected to play a significant role in the 2024 US elections.
AI-powered audience targeting can capitalize on the granular details of individuals' preferences, behaviors, and beliefs to maximize voter engagement.
Recently, the Democratic Party has tested AI to generate initial drafts of fund-raising messages to target specific audiences. Surprisingly, these drafts have shown much better results than those composed solely by humans.
However, the use of AI-driven persuasive techniques that taps into voters’ vulnerabilities and influence their political inclinations is a concern among the general public.
3. AI-Powered Chatbots
AI-powered chatbots, especially those built using Large Learning Models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT, are quite popular these days. They can have several useful political applications. For instance, in the US elections, AI-powered chatbots can be used to answer voters’ questions precisely, saving campaign staff a lot of time.
Political chatbots can leverage Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithms to understand text in real time. Hence, they can assist with voter inquiries by delivering accurate and personalized responses 24/7 without compromising the party narrative.
Furthermore, leveraging voters' interactions allows for the gathering of information about their preferences, likes, and dislikes. Insights can help form policy on relevant election issues, develop targeted political engagement, and improve outreach.
Chatbots can help generate personalized fundraising initiatives, and get voters to fundraise for their candidates to ensure transparency in campaign financing. Moreover, LLMs can be used to conduct micro-polling and message testing. Candidates could gather perspectives and testimonies from political audiences at scale to make sure that their policies and vision match with a majority of people’s expectations.
Chatbots can provide voter registration assistance and election information, such as Hillary Clinton’s election campaign in 2016 – reportedly. For users, chatbots can help them explain the political ideologies of candidates and hold thoughtful policy conversations to expand and depolarize their views.
While careful monitoring is essential to eliminate campaign inaccuracies, political bots can improve narrative building and information flow, and combat misinformation.
4. AI-Based Information Democratization
With easy-to-use generative AI tools, people can create and consume audio/video information easily. AI tools reduce barriers to accessibility that can benefit candidates with limited campaign funds. Additionally, AI democratization can empower volunteers to build powerful solutions to analyze voter sentiments, research opponents, and personalize messaging.
In 2019, an AI-powered communication platform called NaMo was employed in Indian elections to communicate with voters. The idea behind launching an AI application was to answer the questions of the public in real-time. Besides, holographic technology powered by AI was used as well to address multiple rallies simultaneously in different locations across India. This is a prime example of AI democratizing information and enabling Modi to reach many voters all over the country.
However, AI democratization presents the risk of shadow AI which can compromise voters' data. Any lack of transparency in political campaigns can cause a loss of control over data. Moreover, anyone can use AI to generate content that promotes false biased narratives and spread disinformation. Therefore, AI in politics needs regulation, restricting people from taking unfair and unethical advantages.
AI in Politics: Ethical Implications and Restrictions
Generative AI capabilities are improving rapidly. The implications of AI in politics and the US elections especially aren’t explored entirely. Hence, ethical implications and restrictions must be regulated to prevent any critical consequences.
- The lack of guardrails or disclosure requirements distinguishing real and false news can create ambiguity and mislead the public. It can pose a severe threat to the integrity of the 2024 US elections.
- US legislation allows candidates to keep their usage of AI-generated content private. Any ambiguity can undermine the democratic process. So, it is crucial to develop a robust regulatory framework that promotes transparency and safeguards the integrity of US presidential elections.
- Other than that, the increasing use of AI in politics violates voter data privacy because in many cases users don't consent to the collection and analysis of personal information.
- AI could make elections an uneven playing field for candidates where one candidate with access to advanced AI tools can gain an unfair advantage over others. Besides, algorithm bias is another AI shortcoming that can inadvertently make decision-making processes not based solely on merit.
- Lastly, the spread of misinformation through deepfakes by malicious actors during elections can complicate the political landscape.
Generative AI has been influencing the political campaigns of other countries such as Germany, India, France, and Canada mainly to send personalized messages to targeted voter groups to increase engagement and donations.
Political parties can leverage this technology to their advantage. But its consequences remain uncertain. AI legislation can be the answer. It can ensure the ethical use of AI in political campaigns. However, an effort must be laid to discuss the ethics and regulations for using AI in politics.