Political microtargeting

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Political microtargeting, also called "narrowcasting", is "aggregating groups of voters based on data about them available in databases and on the Internet—to target them with tailor-made messages." Personal information—"everything from your magazine subscriptions to real estate records—can and will be used by political parties in the approaching elections to deliver specifically targeted messages calculated to influence your vote." [1]

For example, for the gubernatorial race in Virginia, "[a]rmed with sophisticated new polling techniques refined by both national parties in the 2004 presidential election, Republican Jerry W. Kilgore and Democrat Timothy M. Kaine [compiled] detailed profiles based on how old voters are, what houses they live in, what newspapers they read, what restaurants they eat at and how much money they make," Michael D. Shear reported in the August 28, 2005, Washington Post. "The goal: direct mail letters and voter drives designed not for the masses, but instead for tiny, well-defined slices of the state's voting population."

"Marketers, law enforcement agencies, security officials, background screeners and now politicians are tapping into the same commercially available databases with the goal of rating people with laserlike accuracy," Shear wrote.

"But for all its seeming complexity, the singular goal of microtargeting is to modify voter behavior to a candidate's benefit," Chad Vander Veen wrote in Government Technology, January 2, 2006.

History

In 2002, Alexander P. Gage, founder and President of TargetPoint Consulting, Inc. based in Alexandria, Virginia, "began combining voter registration lists with data from commercial firms that acquire information on Americans' consumer habits. Using the consumer data points as indicators of voters' political leanings, Gage, then working for market research firm Market Strategies Inc., was able to mine the data for likely Republican voters in predominantly Democratic neighborhoods, and to craft phone and mail appeals designed just for certain classes of voters. The tactic is now known to political pros as 'microtargeting'." [2]

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