Political Data Mining

With Wade Goodwyn in for Tom Ashbrook.

The campaigns and ‘dark money’ groups are spending a whole lot of money to target each of us on our computers. Different voter, different message. Is this a good thing?

Photo illustration. (Alex Kingsbury/WBUR)

Photo illustration. (Alex Kingsbury/WBUR)


You know how when you go online to shop for something, say a new baby stroller, then suddenly every website you go to advertises new baby strollers? Now political advertisers are marketing their political messages just for you.

But how do they know who you want to vote for and how to push your particular political buttons? And just who are these advertisers who know so much about us yet we know nothing of them?

This hour, On Point: political advertising’s new frontier.

-Wade Goodwyn



Lois Beckett, a repoter from Propublica.

Scott Goodstein, founder and CEO of Revolution Messaging.

Daniel Kreiss, assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

From The Reading List

Propublica “Lauren Berns was browsing Talking Points Memo when he saw an ad with President Obama’s face. “Stop the Reckless Spending,” the ad read, and in smaller print, Paid for by Crossroads GPS.  Berns was surprised. Why was Crossroads GPS, a group that powerful Republican strategist Karl Rove helped found,advertising on a liberal-leaning political website?”

Propublica “Campaigns are increasingly tailoring their messages — and their funding requests — using massive databases of personal information about potential voters. Here are six variations of a Thursday night message from the Obama campaign, based on emails submitted by 190 recipients across the country. Click a tab to select an email. Then hover over the other tabs to compare your selection to the others.”

Annenberg School For Communications “The 2012 election marks a watershed moment for online advertising. In unprecedented ways,and to an unprecedented extent, campaign organizations across the American political spectrum are using hundreds of pieces of information about individuals’ online and offline lives to ensure the “right” people are being targeted with the “right” advertising.”

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