Ottawa’s Advanced Symbolics applying AI tool to monitor key federal election ridings

Erin Kelly
Advanced Symbolics CEO Erin Kelly. File photo

An Ottawa-based artificial intelligence company is teaming up with a political marketing firm to track important ridings in the upcoming federal election.

Advanced Symbolics announced a partnership Wednesday with Hill+Knowlton Strategies to provide insights on 28 key ridings in this fall’s federal election – insights that go beyond traditional polling data.

The Ottawa-based firm’s AI tool, Polly, crawls social media to track voter attitudes and develop likely electoral outcomes based on its predictive algorithms. Polly, which has accurately predicted previous votes, including the 2016 United States presidential election, learns from each election it evaluates, further refining its predictive capabilities.

“I think we need to admit that the traditional ways of doing public opinion research don’t work any more. People, when they want to talk about their political affiliations, they don’t do it on the telephone – they do it online,” Advanced Symbolics CEO Erin Kelly told OBJ back in 2016.

“If you really want to understand what people are thinking and how they’re feeling and how they’re voting, you need to be online and participating in that conversation.”

Polly’s projections will be tied with insight from Hill+Knowlton’s political expertise in an effort to paint a fulsome picture of the selected ridings. Each political battlefield was picked based on star candidates in the running, projected tightness of the races or whether the riding tends to be a “bellwether” district – a likely predictor of the overall election winner.

"This election could be extremely tight with many races decided by less than 1,000 votes. This means that more than ever, campaigns at every level will matter," Elliott Gauthier, senior vice-president of data and analytics at Hill+Knowlton, said in a statement.

(For those curious, Polly’s analysis as of Sept. 13 was projecting a Liberal minority government with 95 per cent confidence – but there’s still plenty campaign left until the national vote on Oct. 21.)