A recent article highlighted how big data is being used in political campaigns in America. Instead of campaigning in neighbourhoods with homogenous content, every approach at a door, every letter and TV commercial can be tailored to fit the voter being targeted – all based on an app that provides publicly available data.
“It’s a completely different environment,” said Stephanie Sharp, a Johnson County officeholder and consultant who uses and sells a version of the app. “There’s a gold mine of data. … You’re not cold calling when knocking on doors anymore. You know a little bit about your relationship with someone.”
From the price paid for a home, to past likes, shares, and tweets on Facebook and Twitter, everything is being incorporated to give candidates and election teams more information on the demographics they are and should be targeting.
For the democratic process, this is an uncertain practice. On the one hand, the app is — theoretically — paving the way for underfunded candidates to successfully contest an election, thereby levelling the playing field. On the other hand, seeing the massive success Obama had with social media campaigns has led all sides to a re-think how to best capture the electorate.
“Marrying grassroots politics with technology and analytics, they [the Obama campaign] successfully contacted, persuaded and turned out their margin of victory,” the Republican party’s own post-election study found. “There are many lessons to be learned from their efforts.”
However, since all the messages will now be custom-made, based on the information available about the targeted voter’s buying habits and more, fact checking all the statements made by the candidates will leave voters with the task of discerning fact from political storytelling.
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(Image Credit: Theresa Thompson)