I’ll speak to the “major technology solutions that will magically avail themselves pre-election”. We’ve built one! Sydette was even nice enough to cover us on the Coral blog.
We’re using artificial intelligence to create meaning from thousands of user interactions automatically, with dramatically less burden on moderators, and we shine on Op-Ed (we’re less useful on real-estate blogs that have narrative based comments).
In pol.is, users submit comments as usual - we send them out in real-time for others to vote on. Based on the voting patterns across all users, our algorithms then discover, and visualize, opinion groups. Each person, as they vote, moves towards others that voted like they did in the visualization.
You can see it in action here (try agreeing and disagreeing, and clicking on the opinion groups, to see what brought each together): https://preprod.pol.is/2arcefpshi
This works for highly contentious issues with thousands of stakeholders and produces surprising insights and consensus. The tech, used en masse with thousands of citizens by a national government abroad, recently broke a 6 year legislative deadlock.
On average it sees 100x more people engage with voting than with commenting. It engages a new segment of lurkers on the site (ie., 200 commenters --> 2000 voters). You’ll also see ‘real people’ connect Twitter, which draws others in.
Since you’re working with a major brand, however, I would also mention that FT could use our API to create a completely custom experience (or use our widget until that point if it’s desirable) with a text summary of the group output an analysis rather than an explorable visualization.
It’s hosted SaaS - so you just have to share a link or embed a script tag to try it (zero integration pain - minutes to set up).
If you’d like a walk through about how it can help, you can schedule a demo time that works for you here: https://calendly.com/colinmegill/30min and email me at colin at pol.is (I’ll respond with a hangout link).
Good luck this election season