In 2012, the Obama campaign pioneered some amazing technical achievements with regard to data harvesting and micro-targeting of voters. One of their biggest assets was the ability to use facebook as a means to gather information which could be compared to voter registration lists. Once a voter is identified, the campaign could encourage friends to share specifically targeting campaign information with the potential voter.


As a result of privacy concerns, however, facebook has decided to pull the plug on political campaigns having access to this information in the future.

Report from Yahoo News:

Barack Obama’s reelection campaign pioneered a pathway for political campaigns to reach voters through Facebook when it released an app that helped supporters target their friends with Obama-related material.

But as the 2016 presidential campaign approaches, Facebook is rolling out a change that will prevent future campaigns from doing this, closing the door on one of the most sophisticated social targeting efforts ever undertaken.

More than 1 million Obama supporters in 2012 installed the campaign’s Facebook app. These supporters were given the option to share their friend list with the Obama campaign. Goff said most of the app users did so. And when they did, Goff’s team would then “run those friend lists up against the voter file, and make targeted suggestions as to who [supporters] should be sharing stuff with.”

This was a powerful new form of voter outreach. The Obama campaign had concluded that many voters — especially younger Americans — viewed TV and other forms of advertising from the campaign with suspicion and skepticism. But they were still open to messages that came from friends and acquaintances.

The key to getting persuasive messages in front of persuadable voters going forward, the campaign decided, was to have them come from people they knew.

Campaigns will become more inventive and technologically savvy as the digital world continues to evolve. The interesting aspect of this to me is the question of how greatly this may have actually affected the 2012 election results. What if this change had happened before the 2012 election as opposed to before 2016? Maybe the result wouldn’t have changed but it’s very hard to quantify exactly how many targeted technological pursuits were converted to votes on Election Day.

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Nate Ashworth is the Founder and Senior Editor of Election Central. He's been blogging elections and politics for almost a decade. He started covering the 2008 Presidential Election which turned into a full-time political blog in 2012 and 2016.

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