Does The Kind Of Car You Drive Reveal How You Will Vote? - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

11/2/06

Does The Kind Of Car You Drive Reveal How You Will Vote?

Political groups are doing something advertisers and corporate America have been doing for years: finding out your consumer preferences and using that data to get you to buy their product - in this case, their politicians.

Sprite or Dr Pepper? Audi or Saab? Bourbon or vodka?

Such lifestyle choices say as much about you as whether you approve of the job the president is doing.

"There is something about a product choice that tells people a sense of who they are," said Matthew Dowd, President Bush's pollster and co-author of "Applebee's America: How Successful Political, Business and Religious Leaders Connect With the New American Community."

The practice is called "microtargeting," and it shows that people who like Dr Pepper and monster trucks tend to be more Republican, while people who choose Sprite and pro wrestling are more likely to be Democrats.

Here's how it works: Every time you use your credit card, book a flight, or surf the Internet, you leave a data trail of products you like.

Political groups purchase that information from consumer data banks such as Axciom, and combine it with census information, voter lists, information about membership in political groups, and other public records such as whether or not you own a hunting license.

After creating a master list for a specific state or region, they poll thousands of people in that area to see how to categorize voters.

"This data-mining allows you to create profiles at each of these states or communities depending on the size of the election you're running in," said Doug Sosnik, a Democratic strategist and co-author of "Applebee's America."

"You're able to go into those places, and off of those profiles, [you can find out] ... who these people are and where they live, by household, so you can go directly to them to communicate," Sosnik said.

ABC News worked with two mothers in Fairfax County, Va., to see whether the strategists could guess their political affiliation by what they bought.

Sara Brady, 52, a mother of three, told ABC News she would shop at Wal-Mart over Whole Foods, buy Coors beer instead of Budweiser, and opt to watch U.S. Open tennis over college football.

Dowd says that while Wal-Mart shoppers and Coors beer drinkers tend to trend Republican, people who watch the U.S. Open trend more liberal. So how would microtargeters view her?

"There are many things that make her look like she would lean in more of the Republican camp, but ... she's not necessarily solid," Dowd said.

Brady agreed with Dowd's assessment. "He's right on target. I think he's very accurate," she said.

Lori Bernstein, a mother of two, told ABC News that she would also choose the U.S. Open, but that she would shop at Whole Foods.

Given a choice between an Audi or a Saab, she opted for an Audi.

Organic food is considered quite Democratic, while Audis are statistically more Republican.

"She leans slightly to the Democratic side, I think," Dowd said. "She is very much what we would call a 'tipper.'"

Bernstein agreed. "That's probably somewhat true, probably right in the middle, but I probably lean a little Democratic."

The Bush campaign credits microtargeting with helping it not only target voters in some key states two years ago, but also craft targeted messages to them.

A key part of microtargeting is not only categorizing these voters, but figuring out the messages that would best appeal to them, and the best way to deliver those messages.

In Ohio in 2004, a group the Bush-Cheney campaign called "Young Unreliable Pro-President Bush Independents" were told about the president's education policy.

"Anti-Porn Women" were informed about a Bush proposal to restrict Internet access to obscene Web sites in public libraries.

Microtargeters also insist that the best way to make appeals to voters is not through a barrage of anonymous phone calls but to find influential community leaders in a community and have them make the pitch.

The theory, based on a book called "The Influentials" by John Berry and Ed Keller, is that in any group of 10 Americans, there's one who tells the other nine where to eat, what movies to see, and whom to vote for.

The Bush 2004 campaign says it identified 2 million such "influentials" or "navigators" in that campaign.

Democrats are now trying to catch up, trying to microtarget in selected states this year.

All voters should expect to be microtargeted by all sides in time for 2008.

Powered by Frankly