Pundits have ascribed the sweeping Democratic victories in this year's midterm elections to a number of factors, including corruption and dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq. But Democrats had at least one more weapon at hand during this election cycle that had lagged behind Republicans in prior elections: vast databases of public and commercial data that were used to find and target likely Democratic voters in a method politicos called microtargeting.
But things were different this time around. While Republicans continued to use micro-targeting, Democrats significantly stepped up their efforts. The Democratic National Committee spent $8 million this cycle on a multi-terabyte relational database from Netezza; somewhere between 60% and 70% was filled with data purchased from InfoUSA.
One scenario for microtargeting goes like this: Pet owners tend to vote Democratic, female cat owners even more so. Married women with children also tend to vote more Democratic than Republican. So if you see a woman at the polls with a ring on her finger, a toddler in her arms, and cat dander on her jacket, chances are you know who she's voting for. That and other data also is available in publicly and commercially available forms, so chances are the Democratic Party machine also knows who this lady is and may have bombarded her with specially crafted phone calls, mail, and television ads.
The DNC's voter file database contains 300 million records with more than 200 fields per record, everything from voting history to purchasing power to whether the voter has a hunting license. The system can handle 30 to 40 queries at once, automatically cleans up dirty addresses (data from the entire state of Massachusetts can be cleaned in a few hours as opposed to several days), and crunches numbers up to 20 times faster than it did in the past, according to Gus Bickford, a consultant who helped implement the DNC database.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
"Democrats Used Databases In Election Wins Over GOP "