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Jan 3, 2006

Candidates Increasingly Use GIS To "Microtarget" Voters

There's an article over on Government Technology about "Microtargeting." Basically, it involves applying Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to the political arena.

While the idea is not new on the commercial level, because these political applications access the massive databases of the two major political parties, the level of customization they allow is pretty impressive:
"The basic idea of microtargeting is that in the past, you might target a fairly aggregated level like a precinct, whereas now people are merging lots of data that's aggregated not at the precinct level, but down at the individual level," he said. "So you are able to find pockets of voters within some aggregate that are especially attractive to persuade or mobilize.

"That's kind of new," Gerber continued. "That isn't how the Democrats or Republicans have traditionally done their targeting, though now they're starting to do it more and more. The Republicans, almost all their targeting, the Democrats are certainly moving in that direction."
One company involved in the application is Caliper Corporation, which has developed a computer program that uses the vast political databases. The software, called Political Maptitude, combines that data with other data from publicly available sources and maps it into GIS programs to produce very detailed maps that allow a candidate to tailor his message to individual neighborhoods.

A spokesman for Caliper explained, "by using tools in the GIS software, campaigns can create dynamic maps of the different areas, understand their constituency better... and better target their message to these areas."