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What is Microtargeting and How is it Used in Political Campaigns?

The rise of digital media – including internet search engines, video streaming services, social media, and web-based news – has drastically changed how Americans get their information. This new way of accessing news and content affects every part of our lives, from how we teach our kids to the products we buy. One significant aspect of this digital shift is a practice called microtargeting, which is transforming American politics. But what exactly is microtargeting?

What is Microtargeting?

Microtargeting is a marketing technique that uses data about people – such as their likes, connections, demographics, and purchase history – to divide them into small groups for targeted advertising. For instance, if you shop at Whole Foods, you might see ads for organic sunscreen in the summer. This method is highly precise, allowing advertisers to reach specific audiences with tailored messages.

A Look Back: The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

A clear example of microtargeting in action is the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Brad Parscale, the head digital strategist for Trump's campaign, used vast amounts of voter data to create targeted messages for different voter segments, aiming to influence their opinions and behaviors.

Did microtargeting affect the election results? When elections are decided by small margins, every little factor can make a difference. It’s reasonable to think that microtargeting played a role in Trump's victory. By delivering personalized content to undecided voters in key states, the campaign could influence opinions and drive voter turnout in ways that traditional media couldn’t.

Traditional Media Versus Digital Media Today

To understand microtargeting's importance, we need to compare digital media with traditional media, which has been dominated by television, radio, and print news for decades. Traditional media often aims at large audiences with the same message. In contrast, digital media allows for the segmentation of audiences into smaller, more specific groups. With microtargeting, advertisers can create content that is predicted to be most relevant to these groups, resulting in different ads for different people based on their unique characteristics and behaviors.

Microtargeting might seem subtle and insignificant, but when done well, it can have a huge impact. The key is to collect as much data on individuals as possible through digital services, to build detailed profiles of their behavior. This data allows political campaigns to tailor messages to different political groups, showing them ads and content they are likely to find appealing.

This process relies on personal data – information from our use of digital platforms, voter files, and data purchased from brokers. It involves collecting details about our likes, dislikes, interests, preferences, behaviors, and beliefs. This data enables campaigns to craft messages that resonate personally, increasing the chances of engaging and persuading voters.


In summary, microtargeting is a powerful tool for modern political campaigns. By using detailed data about voters, campaigns can deliver personalized messages that resonate on a personal level, potentially swaying opinions and influencing election outcomes. As digital media continues to grow, the role of microtargeting in politics is likely to expand.

For political campaigns looking to harness the power of microtargeting, a thorough analysis of voter file data is essential. Contact Abacus Strategic Partners for a free analysis of your voter file data that will provide valuable insights for your campaign. Embracing this advanced strategy could be the key to gaining an edge in today’s competitive political landscape.

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