What's in a vote? Only your entire personal profile

'All politics is personal' is truer than ever in the big data era -- especially in the hands of the Obama and Romney campaigns

You say you enjoy a lobster dinner with a fine wine accompanied by some light dinner jazz? You must be an Obama supporter. Would you rather drink beer, eat nachos, and attend the Fiesta Bowl? Then you are clearly a Romney fan.

If you think I'm being stereotypical, think again. I'm just taking advantage of modern political data mining techniques.

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Charles Duhigg published a piece in the New York Times last week about the data mining efforts of both the Obama and Romney campaigns. It's worth a read. Both campaigns are collecting massive amounts of consumer data to determine who's likely to vote, how they will vote, and whether they might be willing to donate money or volunteer their time. To wit:

In the weeks before Election Day, millions of voters will hear from callers with surprisingly detailed knowledge of their lives. These callers -- friends of friends or long-lost work colleagues -- will identify themselves as volunteers for the campaigns or independent political groups.

The callers will be guided by scripts and call lists compiled by people -- or computers -- with access to details like whether voters may have visited pornography websites, have homes in foreclosure, are more prone to drink Michelob Ultra than Corona, or have gay friends or enjoy expensive vacations.

So much for my plans to default on my house and move to a Caribbean island with my gay friends so that I can spend all my time drinking beer and surfing porn. Damn you Obama and Romney!

(Personally I'm not entirely convinced campaign workers will know when you've visited naughty websites. Mainstream data miners tend to steer a wide berth around things like that, for obvious reasons. So unless you happened to go from DogsWhoLoveCats.com directly to Barackobama.com or MittRomney.com, then logged in, I highly doubt anyone in either place will know about your fondness for interspecies canoodling. But I digress.)

The campaigns know these things about you because they've purchased this information from political data mining companies like Aristotle, consumer reporting services like Experian and Acxiom, and online tracking companies like Rapleaf, which in turn sucks data from Facebook profiles. They then mix all of these ingredients into a stew that calculates how you're likely to vote based on what you've bought, seen, or done. Duhigg writes:

More subtle data mining has helped the Obama campaign learn that their supporters often eat at Red Lobster, shop at Burlington Coat Factory, and listen to smooth jazz. Romney backers are more likely to drink Samuel Adams beer, eat at Olive Garden, and watch college football.

See? I wasn't kidding. And if you like to eat at Hooters, drink Schlitz Malt Liquor, and hang out at truck-pulling contests, you're probably in the tank for Miller-Bertram 2012, presidential candidates for the American Third Position Party.

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