The arrival of computer modeling helped automate voter targeting, making it more efficient.
Within the Sixties, a market researcher in Los Angeles, Vincent Barabba, developed a pc program to assist political campaigns resolve which neighborhoods to focus on. The system overlaid voting precinct maps with details on individuals’ voting histories together with U.S. census data on household economics, ethnic makeup and family composition.
In 1966, political consultants used the system to assist Ronald Reagan’s campaign for governor of California discover neighborhoods with potential swing voters, like middle-aged, white, male union members, and goal them with ads.
Critics nervous in regards to the technology’s potential to influence voters, deriding it as a “sinister recent development dreamt up by manipulative social scientists,” in accordance with “Selling Ronald Reagan,” a book on the Hollywood actor’s political transformation.
By the early 2000s, campaigns had moved on to more advanced targeting methods.
For the re-election campaign of President George W. Bush in 2004, Republican consultants classified American voters into discrete buckets, like “Flag and Family Republicans” and “Religious Democrats.” Then they used the segmentation to focus on Republicans and swing voters living in towns that typically voted Democrat, said Michael Meyers, the president of TargetPoint Consulting, who worked on the Bush campaign.
In 2008, the Obama presidential campaign widely used individualized voter scores. Republicans soon beefed up their very own voter-profiling and targeting operations.
A decade later, when Cambridge Analytica — a voter-profiling firm that covertly data-mined and scored tens of millions of Facebook users — became front-page news, many national political campaigns were already using voter scores. Now, even local candidates use them.
This spring, the Government Accountability Office issued a report warning that the practice of consumer scoring lacked transparency and will cause harm. Although the report didn’t specifically examine voter scores, it urged Congress to think about enacting consumer protections around scoring.