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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Campaigning for High Schoolers

Darren Samuelsohn reports at Politico that parties and campaigns are targeting teenagers who are underage right now but will be 18 by Election Day 2016.
Indeed, both Democrats and Republicans are desperate for any edge at the polls, and they say they’ll be employing 21st-century data mining techniques in search of supporters from this ripe demographic that has little or no track record in politics. That means scouring local high school directories from Iowa to Florida, matching up data from public voter rolls with parents’ voting histories, and picking through whatever scant bits of consumer information are also available to help paint a sharper picture of the electorate.
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The Republican National Committee senses an opportunity. The next generation of first-time voters were still in grade school when Obama won his first term and have approached legal voting age during a time of deep economic uncertainty. Recognizing the rich vein of potential support, GOP data teams are creating comprehensive files on teenagers as part of a large scale effort to deduce the political DNA of some 200 million Americans.
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But campaigns aren’t just waiting for teenagers to contact them directly. They can buy the public voter rolls in at least 11 states — Alaska, Florida, Kansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, Oregon, Texas and West Virginia — that contain data on people younger than 18 who have pre-registered to vote for the next election. The amount of information on each voter varies by state but typically includes a full name, address, date of birth and, when available, party affiliation.
Political campaigns take that public information and start creating dossiers on future voters, folding in census information, their parents’ voting histories, club memberships and whatever additional consumer data is available on 16- and 17-year-olds. While teenagers rarely have their own credit cards or grocery store loyalty cards not tied with their parents, there is still plenty of unregulated information available for a campaign to harvest, from college survey preferences to insights supplied on social media on everything from Facebook and Instagram to Twitter.