This is the year youre going to shut out the shouting and the charges and the ominously cheesy voice-overs of campaign commercials. Right?
Youll hit the fast-forward button on your DVR when the spots commence. Or youll look away from the commercials while you fiddle with your smartphone or explore whats on that handy iPad.
Sorry. Theres no escape.
Squads of campaign commandos hired by pols looking for your vote will chase you down.
With increasing sophistication, political organizations are fast adopting the tricks of retailers whove learned how to learn more about you. Theyre tracking your digital footprints to better wave ads that will push your buttons, getting you outraged and out to the polls. Theyre going online with talking points increasingly targeted to win elections niche by niche.
Been shopping online for a new gun? When you go to a news website, that could trigger an ad about a candidates fealty to the 2nd Amendment. Use the Web to identify that bird building a nest in your cottonwood tree? Dont be surprised to see an electronic banner on HuffingtonPost.com trumpeting the same politicians endorsement from the Sierra Club.
Electronic cookies usually invisible to you pile up in your Web browser, surmising your interests and announcing them to political campaigns. In turn, campaign managers use those clues to microtarget messages aimed to persuade or motivate you.
Microtargeting is hardly new to elections. Fastidious politicos long ago started scribbling particulars about voters on index cards and storing them in shoe boxes, all the better to make meaningful impressions in their door-to-door canvassing.
While politics still trails the corporate world at tracking people online, consultants say the level of sophistication brought to the digital battlefield will hit new highs in the 2012 campaign cycle. One campaign consultant said that digital operations that nibbled away just 2 percent of a campaign budget in 2008 now might gobble up 8 percent of spending this year mostly in hopes of transferring the intelligence to the pavement-pounding, airwave-blasting strategies of old school politicking.
It could be all the more valuable by adding in social networking the ways our Facebook likes and other behavior clue a campaign to the issues that get your blood boiling. Now campaigns know not just what you care about, but where you look for information.
We know more about you than ever, and how to make that work, said Clay Barker, the executive director of the Kansas Republican Party.
There are more ways to find out what moves you and where to reach you, said Roy Temple, a longtime Missouri Democratic strategist. Things are shifting.
The mining of digital data allowing such a sharp focus on voters could be particularly powerful in the ways it helps campaigns target undecided voters and play to their pet peeves.
While that may be handy for campaigning, some analysts see it as destructive to reasonable governing.
Campaigns capitalize on single issue voting because they dont think a general approach works, said Allan Cigler, a political science professor at the University of Kansas. Then when you campaign to single, targeted issues, youve got to deliver on those issues and those issues only. That makes compromise more difficult.