Eitan Hersh on Data, Microtargeting and Election Campaigns

Prof. Eitan Hersh appeared on CNN on November 5, 2012 in a news story titled, “Microtargeting: How campaigns know you better than you know yourself,” to discuss how political campaigns use sophisticated data and analysis to target voters.

From CNN:

“There’s a lot to say in favor of campaigns targeting voters in this way, (but) there is a lot to be concerned about,” said Eitan Hersh, a political science professor at Yale University who studies the impact of microtargeting on campaigns and the political process.

“People like being targeted in many ways,” said Hersh. “Many people like that Amazon knows what kind of books they like. If a campaign knows that you’re of this religion and this race and went to college, you’re likely to have a different set of values … the campaign is likely to reach out to you on those attributes.”

But there is always a danger that the campaign will misfire or that the ads will seem like “pandering,” Hersh said.

“The downside, of course, Is that we might not like being stereotyped,” he explained.

Still, microtargeting makes an uphill process easier for the campaigns, especially at the presidential level.

“How do you start by trying to convince 200 million people that you they should vote for you?” asked Hersh.

“The task is hard. Data helps and permits campaigns to talk to people about issues they care about,” he continued.

And the data does help.”