To pols, you are the TV shows you watch, car you drive, beer you drink

President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney know things about you.

They know how you’ve voted in the past; whether you’re more of a “Breaking Bad” or “Bones” person; whether you’re more likely to play a round of golf than go hiking in the back country; and the kind of sites you visit on the Internet.

It’s called nanotargeting, and the aim is to better target political messages to individual voters. We’ll be talking about it today at 9 a.m. on The Daily Circuit.

Thomas B. Edsall, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, wrote about nanotargeting in the New York Times:

The explosion of consumer data derived primarily from credit card usage and Nielsen ratings has become a powerful weapon in the hands of politicos.

Especially at the presidential level, but also in Senate and House contests, microtargeting … this kind of detailed information about specific individuals, including not only your political preferences and your likelihood of voting, but also other seemingly less political facts, like the clothes you buy, the movies you go to, the brands you prefer and the number of bedrooms in your home — has come into its own.

Compiling this information has given added firepower to almost every aspect of campaigns, from decisions about which television show to run ads on, to the content of targeted emails, to the selection of which houses volunteers should visit.

This deep knowledge – made possible by increasingly sophisticated data analysis – will play out on television among other places. A campaign seeking to appeal to its base, or get out the vote, or even suppress the vote of their opponent’s supporters, will make ad-buying decisions based on our TV habits.

Viewers of soap operas and VH1 skew strongly Democratic, but they turn out to vote at low rates. Viewers of MSNBC and CNN also skew Democratic, but they turn out to vote at far higher rates. On the other side of the aisle, Country Music Television attracts a strongly Republican audience, but its viewers are not regular voters; viewers of the Golf Channel and Fox News, on the other hand, are reliably Republican and also turn out in large numbers …

The television spending strategies of Obama and Mitt Romney will emerge as the campaign progresses. Given the highly polarized character of the electorate this year, both sides are likely to spend most heavily on their own base voters, seeking to get them to the polls, so that a viewer of “30 Rock,” for example, is unlikely to see any Republican ads, while a professional football enthusiast won’t see many Democratic ads.

How do you feel about being nano-targeted? Tell us here. We’ll include some of your comments today on The Daily Circuit. Radio guests include Eitan Hersh, assistant professor of political science at Yale University, and Lois Beckett, reporter for ProPublica.

-Jon Gordon, MPR News social media editor

  • John

    Gun ownership poll questions answered truthfully? I can think of reasons not to, one way or another.

  • Craig

    I wonder if, instead of using the data to decide what a given candidate should say to whom, could a party use it to design an optimized platform, or select an optimized candidate that will yield the most votes? Effectively letting the market design the product.

  • Nick

    Hulu has an option during their ads that asks “is this ad relevant to you?” Why don’t other advertisers offer this option? I would be happy to give a little extra information if it means I’ll be sent irrelevant or offensive ads a little less often.