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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

An Innovative Approach to Microtargeting Constituencies

Thomas Stackpole has a TNR post, “How NARAL is Hoping to Win the Election for Obama,” which shows an innovative approach to voter turnout. As Stackpole explains:

Wednesday morning, in a small conference room in its Washington, D.C. office, NARAL Pro-Choice America rolled out a plan to clinch the election for President Obama. That’s an ambitious goal for an organization pushing a niche issue in a contest dominated by the economy, but they’re hoping to win big by thinking small. Their plan is to target what they’ve termed “Obama Defectors”–pro-choice women who supported Obama in 2008, but are now poised to vote for Mitt Romney–and win them back. Nationally, they’ve identified 5.1 million across the country, 1.2 million of whom live in swing states.
But their real focus is actually on a much smaller number: a mere 338,020 women who live in swing counties in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin. By their math, targeting this highly prized–and potentially persuadable–demographic in the right places could be enough to push Obama over the edge.
This micro-targeting strategy isn’t anything new, but it’s the first time it’s being employed by a group with such narrow interests and with such a small target group. “I don’t know if anything like this has been done–at least not this election,” boasted Drew Lieberman, the pollster behind the model…

Stackpole goes on to explain that the technique was adapted from an earlier data mining approach pioneered by Republican operatives, including Karl Rove and Alex Gage and tweaked for pro-Democratic constituencies. Stackpole adds that “Team Obama brought their data analysis to a new level, and, using a database called Catalist, applied behavioral science to identify and communicate with voters at a level of specificity that would have seemed like science fiction a generation ago.” Stackpole adds,

NARAL is basing its strategy on a 20,000-interview survey conducted by former Clinton pollster Stan Greenberg’s firm (Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner), which used roughly 500 data points–like whether they’re cable subscribers, what publications they read, even what products they like–to identify their target voters. While Obama leads among women, they found that he’s polling eight points lower than he finished in 2008, creating a seemingly up-for-grabs voting bloc that both sides are pursuing aggressively. From there, NARAL narrowed the group down even more by dividing their so-called “Obama Defectors” into persuasion voters, who were likely to show up on election day, and Obama supporters, who were less likely to head to the polls, and focusing on the former. This segment, it turns out, tends to be white, independent female voters younger than 40.

In addition, ” the GQR survey found that 40 percent of its target group would vote for a candidate that was pro-choice, even if they disagreed with the candidate on every other issue. They also found that Obama was able to pick up six points when his position on abortion rights was explained and compared to the Republican platform.”
It’s an excellent example of how creative, data-driven political research is increasingly important in modern campaigns.

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