Can Big Data Increase Voter Turnout?

Can Big Data Increase Voter Turnout?

It’s a fact of life these days that by using increasingly sophisticated big-data tools and technologies, we’re able to take the convergence of our “digital” and “real” selves to the next level. And for companies in the private sector, the digital footprints left behind when consumers ‘like’ a Facebook post or ‘share’ their feelings toward a certain product are an invaluable way to discover how that person may shop in the future. Because so much of our lives are now connected to the broaderInternet of Things, it’s possible for marketing teams to understand almost everything about our lives, and use the import social issues and current events – including environmental policy and action on climate change — to shape their campaigns.

To ensure success in this year’s presidential election, political strategists in both the Democratic and Republican parties have teamed up withbig datafirms to create massive datasets which hold detailed characteristic and trait profiles of millions of individuals. These political funding initiatives, which effectively target specific slices of the electorate, help candidates tailor their messages to whomever they are attempting to reach.

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For example, a candidate attempting to reach pro-environmental voters in the Houston area could send certain ads only to specific registered voters registered who have typed “Nissan Leaf” into Google, or shared information from the COP21 event on their timelines.

Candidates who have based their platform around climate change may be able to use data-based advertising strategies tomove people to action– but of course, the inverse is also true as well. Republican candidates, notorious for their allegiance to fossil fuel industry, also invest heavily in data-mining tools to more effectively disseminate their messages to voters across the country.

Xaxis, a top data mining firm, has supported several political campaigns by harvesting massive quantities of data from people across the United States. By scanning the social media profiles, online purchases and Internet searches of millions of Americans, Xaxis compiles a comprehensive list of likely voters and where they stand on certain issues. Political campaigns purchase this information to make their efforts more effective. In this way, instead of distributing a single advertisement about a candidate’s positions to every household in Detroit, highly specialized advertisements are sent only to likely supporters.

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Yet for political campaigns, the realm of digital is still relatively new. Television has long been the standard medium through which to connect and communicate, and it’s still the most effective — reaching 87 percent of people over 18, as Derek Williswrote in theNew York Timesearlier this year.

To this end, it was in the interest of pay-TV companiesDish NetworkandDirecTVto begin offering services allowing political campaigns to utilize their digital data to distribute certain advertisements for particular households. Dish and DirecTV hadpreviously joined audiencesin their “D2 initiative,” which mined TV set-top box data to target ads at a household level for consumer advertisers.;


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