by Ariel T '14

Personalizing Politics: Political Campaigns in the 21st Century

In the most recent political election, season campaigns made better use of private data and patterns gained from personal information to make political ads and reach new voters than in any other previous election. This new method of campaigning involves using social media to lead to the ultimate success of the campaign. Polls about certain issues have been used to find out what people want to hear from certain candidates. In this way, candidates can better target their audiences and cater their viewpoints to be inclusive of the audience they are trying to reach.

Due to DVR (digital video recording) and other technological, developments it is possible to record a show and fast forward through commercials. Campaigns have to take this new way of being exposed to media into account. As a result of the evolving habits of TV watchers, YouTube videos now have ads before the video, often ones that cannot be skipped over. This is a new way of making sure people see commercials.

Advertisements are very effective in reaching specific demographics. Ads on the sides of popular websites, for example, may seem random. However, they are strategically placed. According to “The Digital Campaign,” a video on PBS, small details about people that seem insignificant can help campaigns make patterns that can aid in gaining votes.

Political intelligence companies, such as Aristotle, sell campaigns public information about people. This has occurred since Reagan’s election and they supplied information to both Romney and Obama’s campaigns. Campaign teams, using technology, can sort through masses of information and be precise in zoning in on all of the people allowed to vote in an an election. There is “one to one targeting” that results in the ability to talk about key issues. It starts with registered voting files which is like the “DNA of the electorate.” This file contains the name, address, gender, and race of the individual. Other information comes from commercial marketing; email, phone numbers, views expressed in surveys, what magazines the individual subscribes to, and more. A campaign can accumulate “up to 500 data points on [an] individual.” These points can be as specific as whether the individual is a smoker, Nascar fan, veteran… If the music you listen to or car you drive can help campaigns then they will use it to their advantage. It seems that they are getting very close to knowing specifically who the voter is yet they are look for correlations between the data. Owning a corvette doesn’t necessarily mean one will vote republican however if there is a connection seen in a large amount of dates campaigns use this to their advantage.

You may wonder what they know about you! These lists of personal knowledge, ranging from type of car owned to whether or not one prescribed to animal magazines, when combined with knowledge of voting patterns in the past explain how to sell a candidate. These correlations then can aid volunteers to sell their candidates. Volunteers that go door to door in order to urge people to vote, due to technology, can skip over certain houses where it is clear there will not be a positive response. This makes it more efficient for volunteers to talk to those that they can influence, such as those undecided. Especially making sure your voters turn out to vote!

The seemingly random information gained from companies is fed into algorithms to predict voting behavior. Importance of issues is determined differently for certain people. Campaigns can create advertisements that certain people will respond well to. For example, according to “The Digital Campaign” a male from Ohio registered Democrat who owns a shotgun and visits the Wall Street Journal website might swing Republican if he cares about gun control. Ads can target that. The same way, a woman with children under 18 who subscribes to pet magazines might swing Democrat if she cares about education issues. After grouping people with similar interests campaigns can then target groups with certain ads or take campaigners to their doors. Buckets are created for those heavily decided and for those that can be persuaded. Campaigns spend more time on those needing persuasion.

The specificity of the information collected helped Linda McMann, a woman who desired to be in the Senate. McMann spent millions of dollars over two campaigns and was knowledgeable on the voters in her area. McMann, a republican, knew that the voters in Connecticut were in support of Obama or were registered democrats so as part of her strategy she told people that if voting for Obama they should also vote for her. She was urging people to avoid voting only for one party on a ballot.

In addition to public information companies there is also a “cookie” code that records what websites you visit. Campaigns can buy access to your cookies so they can put ads on your most visited websites. Campaigns essentially know who you are but don’t care about these details because they are doing this to sell you the presidential candidate.
In some swing states such as Ohio, citizens were bombarded with many political ads. The ads during the 2012 Election season spread more and more into social media, both in how they information was gathered and where candidates advertised. In the 2012 election campaigns have to speak to people and get points across differently as a result of many points being relevant yet some being more heavily weighted.


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