Presidential campaigns use data mining to influence your vote


You watched the debate on Tuesday, right? New information has emerged about how campaigns are using data mining to get you to the polls on Nov. 6.

We all know that data mining is becoming more and more a part of our lives. Data miners use seemingly unrelated data to target products, services, and special solicitations directly to you as an individual or household.

Back in August, I read an Associated Press report about how parallel computing technologies made it possible for the Romney campaign to target people with a precision that has never before been seen in modern American political history.

They start with basic things like church attendance. It’s long been known in politics that the more likely you are to be a regular churchgoer, the more likely you are to support the GOP ticket. The less the likely you are to be a regular churchgoer, the more likely you are to the support the Democratic ticket. Other factors the Romney campaign was looking at included family size and property taxes.

Those are just some of the most basic layers. But now data mining companies are going far beyond to another level. The New York Times  reports data miners can now make correct guesses about you based on things like where you dine out, what kind of music you listen to, and even what brand of beer you drink.

“More subtle data mining has helped the Obama campaign learn that their supporters often eat at Red Lobster, shop at Burlington Coat Factory and listen to smooth jazz. Romney backers are more likely to drink Samuel Adams beer, eat at Olive Garden and watch college football.”

These data mining companies are getting larger and larger. They collect massive amounts of data about you and me. Their dossiers on us are generally not available for us to see. But what they contain is very much a part of what shows up in our mailboxes and what offers we get.

If you go back 4 years ago, what kind of car you drove was considered an indicator of who you were likely to support for president back in 2008. In the intervening 4 years, it’s gotten a lot more sophisticated than that. (As a bit of trivia, the most Republican kind of car in 2008 was considered to be a Jaguar!)

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