To hear big data master Nate Silver tell it in his FiveThirtyEight column in the New York Times, today's mid-term election is a done deal.

Republicans are favored to win the Senate, he writes, putting their chances of doing so at 76 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight’s Senate forecast, which is principally based on an analysis of the polls in each state and the historical accuracy of Senate polling. (Pointed reminder Silver makes in his post: FiveThirtyEight called the 2012 election with its finding that President Obama had about a 90 percent chance of being reelected in 2012, Democrats had a 95 percent chance of keeping the Senate that year).

So! Now that that is settled, let's move on to other data points that are less universally known -- but still telling about the US populace and the industry's data-gathering prowess.

Our addiction to political advertising spend is growing

Political advertising will hit $8.3 billion this year, with half of that money spent in August, September and October, according to a Borrell report.

Video-oriented media — that is, cable and broadcast TV — not surprisingly is the dominant channel, but online ads and video has begun a growth jag worth monitoring, the company says. It predicts that online ads are poised to reach almost $1 billion in the 2016 presidential election year.

This year it is expected to account for only 3 percent of political advertising dollars, but in 2016 online will make up close to 8 percent of political ad dollars.

But we don’t know what works and what doesn’t

What is that saying marketers like to quote? 'I know about half of my marketing spend is effective, I just don’t know which half.'

Ditto the political realm, according to the Pew Research Center, which finds that while 80% of registered voters have seen or heard campaign commercials from candidates or political groups, 53% generally do not pay attention to the commercials.

Although maybe we do have some inkling

Granted, a lot of those ads are attack ads, which might account for viewers tuning them out.

Another survey conducted by CallFire found that the biggest influence on candidates' approval rating is their campaign platform/beliefs (81 percent). A mere 21 percent cited the candidates marketing strategies as a winning influence.

But if you are looking for like-minded people online ShareThis offers some tips. Republicans tend to dominate Facebook, while Democrats have taken to Twitter and Reddit for mid-term election sharing.

ShareThis gets to the heart of why all this matters, especially in an election like this one where the outcome is fairly obvious. It writes:

…without any one issue driving this election, we are left with social engagement and sharing activity as an important metric in determining what people are most hyped about and, furthermore, what will determine the outcome."

Polarization between the two parties is only going to increase with this election, it continued.

ShareThis took a closer look at states where this is most evident, such as Kentucky and Iowa and found some particularly interesting and nuanced differences in sharing patterns between the two political parties."

But does sharing reflect what the public really thinks?

Last year Pew Research Center looked at that question and found that the reaction on Twitter to certain political events is often at odds with the overall public opinion as measured by surveys.

That was the conclusion of a year-long study that compared the results of national polls to the tone of tweets in response to eight major news events, including the outcome of the presidential election, the first presidential debate and major speeches by Barack Obama.

Namely, it found that at times the Twitter conversation was more liberal than survey responses, while at other times it is more conservative.

Often it is the overall negativity that stands out. Much of the difference may have to do with both the narrow sliver of the public represented on Twitter as well as who among that slice chose to take part in any one conversation."

Consider the president's State of the Union in 2012. It was generally well-received by the public with 42% saying they had a positive reaction while 27 percent having a negative reaction. On Twitter, however, the conversation about Obama’s speech was far more negative (40 percent) than positive (21 percent), the study found.

"More recently, Obama’s second inaugural address received more positive than negative assessments in a national survey conducted after the speech. But the conversation about the speech on Twitter tilted more toward criticism than praise."

Bottom line? Twitter users are not representative of the public as they are considerably younger than the general public and more likely to be Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, Pew said. 

Title image by Hervé BRY  (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.