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What Your Fast Food and Social Media Preferences Reveal About How You'll Vote

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Political campaigns use such data to craft finely-honed messages aimed at getting a desired response.

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"This is where we think other attempts to 'match' you to candidates based on issue quizzes go wrong. Voters don't necessarily behave rationally. We think the subcultures you inhabit say an awful lot about your politics." Ruffini continued.

Engage also did a study of political favorites and social media preferences, again based on an analysis of Facebook 'likes.' Their finding?

"Sites that tend to skew more Republican include those oriented towards commerce and personal finance - like PayPal, eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), Zillow (NASDAQ:Z), and LinkedIn (NASDAQ:LNKD), not to mention Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), albeit at lower levels of political engagement. Sites that index higher for political engagement include Quora, BuzzFeed, and Wikipedia, which emphasize information and knowledge," wrote Ruffini in a report

That Engage was able to tie food and social media choices to candidate preferences through a study of Facebook 'likes' highlights the fact that we are in the era of 'Big Data,' where technology -- from traditional sources like credit payment history and newer platforms, like Facebook 'likes' to Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) search or Amazon order histories -- have enabled Obama and Romney to know more about American voters than any previous candidate has. With that knowledge, campaigns are able to craft hyper-tailored advertising and get-out-the-vote messages that will most likely obtain the desired response.

"Campaigns now run these sort of complex statistical algorithms that troll through these sometimes thousands of data points they have for every voter in the country and come up with a prediction of how they think [you're going to vote], if you're likely to cast a ballot at all, if you're going to be pro-choice, if you're going to be a gun owner. And those have become the sort of staple of campaigns sorting through the electorate in a far more nuanced, granular way," explained Sasha Issenberg, author of The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns, to NPR.

"By reducing [geographically based outreach efforts] to an individual level, campaigns can interact with and mobilize one voter and not their neighbor," Issenberg continued.

Inevitably, issues of privacy arise when it comes to the use of such data, especially in the political arena. "Privacy practices here are not regulated [as they are ] in the commercial sector due to protections afforded by political speech," highlighted Karthika Muthukumaraswamy of The Huffington Post, who added that commercial sector regulations, such as the burgeoning Do Not Track movement, would not be feasible in the political arena, "just as the federal Do Not Call list doesn't apply to political campaigns."

As such, expect the use of big data only to grow in future elections, with mobile technology in particular playing an expanded role, as Robert Mitchell from Computer World elucidated:

As campaign volunteers go door to door, they might rely on mobile apps [such as Square] for customized messages about specific households. They could look at profiles that not only indicate whether an individual is a Republican or a Democrat, but also offer guidance about how much of a donation to ask for based on the person's past history of campaign donations. In addition, canvassers can use apps to capture details of interactions with voters and upload that information to the campaign database, thereby providing continuous, real-time feedback.
(See also: Microsoft Battles Major Advertisers Over 'Do Not Track' Browser Feature.)

Twitter: @sterlingwong
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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