Schwarzenegger exploiting microtargeting of voters

Extending Bush's consumer marketing strategy of elections, Arnold - assured of a shoe-in - pushes the technological edge of voter turnout efforts.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor

The new catch phrase in politics is pithily stated by Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's deputy political director Josh Ginsburg: ``It's not where they live, it's how they live.''

He's referring to the political version of database marketing. It's well-known that George W. Bush's 2004 campaign used consumer data about voters to identify folks in Democratic districts who might be susceptible to a Republican appeal and contact them. Now, Schwarzenegger's campaign is adapting the strategy to California and updating the technology, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

This time of year, a muddle of TV ads creates as much confusion as clarity. But behind the scenes, the Schwarzenegger campaign has stockpiled millions of names, phone numbers and addresses and merged them with consumer preferences, voting histories and other demographic markers. A household can be targeted with phone calls, mailings and visits from volunteers, delivering messages tailored to issues the resident is believed to care about.

``For a long time in California, the thesis has been that television advertising by itself drives voter turnout. That, in fact, is not the case,'' Schmidt said. ``What drives voters is person to person contact.''

The Democrats have also got targeted marketing religion but it's clear they have a ways to go to catch up with Republicans. But in this backlash election year, when independents are swinging Democratic, microtargeting will likely be of limited use.

``No amount of microtargeting is going to save Republicans,'' said California Democratic Party adviser Bob Mulholland.

In 2004, an extremely close election, it made a big difference. And while Arnold looks to win by a landslide - even Bay Area voters appear to be for him - the campaign is leaving no stone unturned.

Last weekend, several dozen Schwarzenegger volunteers hunkered down in a Los Angeles office to call thousands of potential supporters. ... Each voter is assigned a bar code for tracking purposes, a technique also used by Democrats. With information drawn from the database, the campaign produces a personalized script a volunteer will read over the phone that is based on an issue thought to be of importance to each voter.

This weekend, it ranged from illegal immigration to taxes to abortion regulation. After each conversation, voter responses are recorded and scanned into the computer system, further refining each person's profile. Next could be more mailings, more calls or a visit from a campaign volunteer.

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