Every time you subscribe to a magazine, use your discount card at the supermarket or order from a catalog, political professionals are learning more about how consumer behavior mirrors political preference, and smart candidates are using that gold mine of knowledge to reach traditionally hard-to-find voters.
Called microtargeting, it’s been used for decades by advertisers to find new customers and is now making it easier for political candidates to find voters who largely agree with them.
“Microtargeting is simply finding the right voter or consumer and the right message to either motivate them to vote or purchase your product,” Blaise Hazelwood, president of Alexandria, Va.-based Republican microtargeting firm Grassroots Targeting, tells the Arizona Capital Times.
“To do that most effectively, a microtargeting firm will want to know as much as possible about the voters in the election area they’re targeting. And the key to accessing that knowledge, microtargeting practitioners say, lies in the faint trails of data people leave behind every day,” the Times reports.
“There are usually about 300 to 500 variables,” Hazelwood said. “It’s everything from what kind of car you drive to the magazines you subscribe to, organizations you’ve donated to, whether you have a swimming pool, the size of your house, the size of your mortgage, or whether you take the train to work.”
“Ken Strasma, president of Strategic Telemetry, the Democratic microtargeting firm that is also serving as the mapping consultant for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, said that although they may rarely consider it, consumers willingly participate in data collection, since data tracking is practically always an opt-in system,” the Times reports.
An example of microtargeting at the local level, without spending money to rent a mailing list, would be asking a tobacco, motorcycle or gun shop to put out some campaign brochures and a sign.
You can also get information on which neighborhoods are best for block-walking for free from the voter registration files every candidate should buy at the start of any campaign, and from the Census Bureau..
“Data from the decennial census and the American Community Survey, a detailed survey administered every three years in a similar fashion to the census, provides insights into ethnicity, income, family size, marital status and a number of other indicators. A voting history won’t say for whom any person voted in an election, but it will say how frequently a person votes and in which elections, indicating the likelihood a person will vote in the future — a key piece of knowledge for someone looking for a reliable vote,” the Times reports.
By finding voters whose lifestyles and activities mirror those of current supporters, you can open the door to new fields of voters you otherwise may never have been able to find.