Data Mining and the Election of 2012

Data Mining and the Election of 2012

Taking a page out of Google, political advisors are now using data mining and sophisticated algorithms to achieve targeted results this election cycle.  To wit, a recent article in USA Today entitled “Romney uses extensive data-mining to find donors, money”, by Jack Gillum of the Associated Press (http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/story/2012-08-24/romney-money-hunt/57268154/1), caught our eye.  Quoting an anonymous source, the AP reveals the Buxton Company of Ft. Worth, TX is using data mining to help Romney identify rich and previously untapped Republican donors across the country.  Putting aside for the moment, which presidential candidate you support, the interesting thing to note is that with so much personal data legally available to identify and target potential donors, why isn’t this practice more commonplace?  Contextual data including details about credit and debit transactions, families and children, voter registration, charitable contributions, property tax records, social media activity and survey responses is apparently being used by the Romney campaign to effectively target potential donors even in traditionally blue states and cities.

Data Mining:  Effectively identifying donors for Romney

“An early test analyzed details of more than 2 million households near San Francisco and elsewhere on the West Coast and identified thousands of people who would be comfortably able and inclined to give Romney at least $2,500 or more. An AP analysis this week determined that Romney’s campaign has made impressive inroads into even traditionally Democratic neighborhoods, collecting more than $350,000 this summer around San Francisco in contributions that averaged $400 each. High-dollar donors have been essential to Romney’s election effort, unlike Obama, who relies on more contributors giving smaller amounts.”

Data Mining:  Can contextual data influence an election?

Whereas digital media companies collect and synthesize contextual data to serve more targeted advertising and content, politicians should be able to use similar means to effectively deliver their message not only to supporters and donors but to target and influence the large group of independents or undecided’s (estimated at 8% of registered voters) who will invariably determine the winning candidate this coming November.  There is ample evidence to support the notion that delivering contextually targeted ads or content raises click rates and responses, so why not a contextually driven outreach campaign that delivers customized messages from the candidate to appropriate or pre-disposed voters?  In 2008, the Obama campaign successfully used social media to construct a grass roots movement which helped raise millions of dollars in small individual donations.  Maybe 2012 will be remembered as the election that Romney’s team effectively utilized data mining and contextual information to win the White House.

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