« How Labor's Split Could Affect Dems' Future | Main | Does the Big Tent Have a Weak Foundation? »

Data Advantage May Give GOP Edge

Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten have an article in The L.A. Times on the GOP's increasing ability to target potential supporters with laser-like precision and deliver tailored messages based on correlated data profiles. Their article, "Parties Are Tracking Your Habits: Though both Democrats and Republicans collect personal information, the GOP's mastery of data is changing the very nature of campaigning," argues that the data edge may account for the GOP's victories in 2004.

a GOP database that culled information ranging from the political basics, like party registration, to the personal, such as the cars they drive, the drinks they buy, even the features they order on their phone lines. The "micro-targeting" effort was so effective that the party credited it with helping to secure Bush's reelection.

...Both parties gather data on registered voters through public records such as voting history, voting registration rolls, driver's and hunting licenses and responses to issue surveys. Consumer data, often gathered from supermarkets, liquor stores, online book vendors, drugstores and auto dealerships and used increasingly in marketing campaigns, also are finding their way into the voter files kept by both parties...Where a voter lives, what car she drives and what magazines she reads are all used to predict her position on specific issues.

If this seems a stretch, consider the opinion of Dennis L. White, the Democrats' Ohio Party chairman, quoted in the article: "The Republicans have been working on this for a decade, and that's why they" are defeating us..."We are still three years behind."

Hamburger and Wallsten note that "the depth of the Republican files is greater they have been around longer and include more information." They also cite the GOP's economic leverage in purchasing data from retail chain stores. But some of the gathered data cited by the authors suggests the GOP may be wasting time, money and energy with data overkill and silly sterotypes:

Bourbon drinkers are more likely to be Republicans; gin is a Democratic drink. Military history buffs are likely to be social conservatives. Volvos are preferred by Democrats; Ford and Chevy owners are more likely Republican. Phone customers who have call waiting lean heavily Republican.

There is such a thing as too much information, and screening out data ought to be as much of a concern as collecting it. Still, the article makes a credible case that Dems need to get up to speed in data collection and analysis.