November 10th, 2012
03:26 PM ET

How campaigns target voters

Fareed Zakaria speaks with New York Times journalist Charles Duhigg about how the two campaigns steered people to vote in this week’s presidential election. For the full interview, watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS" this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.

"One of the things that the campaigns have done is they’ve tried to vacuum up everything that they can, " Charles Duhigg tells Fareed Zakaria. "It used to be that when someone was running for office, they would get into the voter file, right? And it would say someone’s name, where they lived and their party affiliation and whether they ever have before.

"Now, each campaign has literally thousands of data points on you. They know what magazines you subscribe to. They know if you've ever declared bankruptcy or gone into foreclosure. They know how many kids you have. They know if you ever bought a boat, what type of insurance you own, where you send your kids to school.

"Thousands and thousands of data points they collect, to try and create an image of you. And at the center of that is the same question, how can I push your button to vote for my guy or gal?"

And what have been the surprising things that are predictive of whether or not you're going to vote, whether you’re likely to be a Republican or a Democrat?

"Well, what's interesting is a lot of it, as you mentioned, is…the other places you go. Like we didn’t know, for instance, that Romney supporters go to Olive Garden and that Obama supporters go to Red Lobster. But knowing that is actually really useful, because that means that Romney can go buy ads inside Olive Gardens and say…if you don't often vote, come out to the polls, because I know you’re going to vote for me.

Zakaria: The coming political drone warfare

"And there’s really two elections going on here, the first of which is to try and persuade people, and the second of which is to try and convince people just to vote.

"Keep in mind, you know, still a majority of Americans don’t actually vote in the presidential election. And so a big goal for Obama and for Romney was just to say we know that if we can get you into the polls, you're going to pull the lever for me guy. I just want to convince you get into that polling station."

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Topics: 2012 Election • Elections

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. JAL

    I think that it is worthy of note that in the past 2, if not 4, years, the GOP has been making decisions, as if Obama is not popular and that all they need to do is wait it out until 2012 with uncooperative behavior. Here is some advice: You are an American, honor your president.

    November 10, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Reply
  2. thomper

    I think Republicans need to target the democrats that do work for them and fire them. Share the pain. If they want everything for free this way they will be eligible for more government programs. Help them accelerate ruining heir lives a little faster like the Democrap Party wants!

    November 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Reply
    • JAL
      November 11, 2012 at 6:49 am | Reply
    • JAL


      November 11, 2012 at 7:49 am | Reply
  3. J 'Cincinnati' Redd

    Alot of americans should be ashamed,how can you not vote? I guess some people are fed up with politics.

    November 10, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Reply
  4. 100 % ETHIO

    "How Campaigns target voters?"
    More Money = more voters.
    Less Money = less voters.

    However, one should know how and when to convince voters.

    November 11, 2012 at 12:02 am | Reply
  5. Mark Riesling

    I like Olive Garden and jazz and I do not like football and Red Lobster – I guess that makes me an undecided, swing voter – which I am.

    November 11, 2012 at 10:48 am | Reply
    • deep blue

      Swing dance to some good Jazz and forget about the election. The election is over. It's time to dance.

      November 12, 2012 at 10:47 pm | Reply
  6. j. von hettlingen

    This new campaign pratice is per se effective, but it's also a double-edged sword. If it gets too aggressive, it will only hurt oneself, by turning people off.

    November 12, 2012 at 5:29 am | Reply

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