Whether it’s voting in the leader of the free world or voting in the next member of the local school board, democracy, the voice of the people, has always faced one persistent issue: most people don’t care. In fact, as we’ve seen time and time again, as presidential races boil down to the final weeks of campaigning, both sides often times kick their efforts into high gear to determine your political allegiance and get you to the polls, and the 2012 presidential race is no different.
What is different about the efforts of the Obama and Romney campaigns this year, however, is their chosen tack, which apparently consists of Internet tracking in a not-so-subtle attempt to
shame coax voters to the polls.
According to a report in The New York Times, campaign strategists have unprecedented access to personal voter information, the private stuff like your Internet search habits, your Facebook page, and your financial status; information that both campaigns will reportedly be using over the next several weeks help give you that little extra motivation necessary to participate in the democratic process…this should be interesting.
There’s no question that focused marketing works, it’s why the debate rages on about who controls your personal information once it hits the World Wide Web. To wit, companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Apple routinely use consumers viewing, listening, and reading habits to recommend associated products that the consumers might want; admittedly a rather innocuous example, but one that illustrates the effectiveness of tracking people’s habits and using that information to market accordingly.
Now translate a similar marketing strategy to politics, increase the creepiness factor by at least 100, and you have the strategy likely to be deployed by associates of both the Obama and Romney campaigns over the next several weeks. In fact, with both campaigns having reportedly purchased detailed demographic information about voters en masse, campaigners will reportedly be contacting people, looking to employ this personal information in a subtle shame campaign.
According to the NY Times, “The callers will be guided by scripts and call lists compiled by people — or computers — with access to details like whether voters may have visited pornography Web sites, have homes in foreclosure, are more prone to drink Michelob Ultra than Corona or have gay friends or enjoy expensive vacations.”
The thinking behind this strategy, it seems, is that the more information campaigns have about you, the more they can use that personal data to determine your political allegiance and motivate you to vote. It remains to be seen, however, just how crazy this gets, will campaigners assume a person is a Democrat based on their viewing of pornography, for instance (because we all know Democrats have loose morals), or that your beer preference betrays your Republican leanings (because only Republicans drink Budweiser)?
So how do campaigns get away with this sort of nonsense? Its easy actually, they use independent political action committees (PACs) to put the word out, allowing both campaigns to emphasize their commitment to voter privacy with a straight face. Further, campaigns are rather secretive about their information gathering techniques. As one Romney operative noted, “You don’t want your analytical efforts to be obvious because voters get creeped out.”
Is this really what the democratic process has become, foregoing strong platforms and healthy debates in favour of tracking the private choices and habits of voters in order to shame them to the polls? For shame!