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Political Machines: Understanding the Role of AI in the U.S. 2024 Elections and Beyond

Martin, Z., Jackson, D., Trauthig, I., and Woolley, S. (May, 2024). Political machines: Understanding the role of generative AI in the U.S. 2024 elections and beyond. Center for Media Engagement.

Propagandists are pragmatists and innovators.1 Political marketing is a game in which the cutting edge can be the margin between victory and defeat. Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) features prominently for those in the political marketing space as they add new tools to their strategic kit. However, given generative AI’s novelty, much of the conversation about its use in digital politicking is speculative. Observers are taking stock of the roles generative artificial intelligence is already playing in U.S. politics and the way it may impact highly contested elections in 2024 and in years to come. Amid policymakers’ and the public’s concerns, there is an urgent need for empirical research on how generative AI is used for the purposes of political communication and corresponding efforts to manipulate public opinion. To better understand major trends and common concerns – such as generative AI’s role in the rapid production of disinformation, the enabling of hyper-targeted political messaging, and the misrepresentation of political figures via synthetic media (so-called deepfakes) – this report draws on interviews with relevant professionals. These interviews were conducted between January and April 2024 with campaign consultants from both major political parties, vendors of political generative AI tools, a political candidate utilizing generative AI for her campaign, a digital strategist for a Democratic advocacy organization, and other relevant experts in the digital politics space.”

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