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Data-Mining Firm Searches for Voters by Combing High School Yearbooks

A company working for John Kasich's super-PAC is trying to create a “social graph” of possible supporters by scanning high school yearbooks, small-town newspapers, and sports-team rosters.
Bloomberg business news

Inside Victory Lab: How Kasich Super PAC Targets Voters

In recent weeks, as Ben Carson began to slip in national polls of the Republican presidential primary field, volunteers at New Day for America, the super-PAC backing Ohio Governor John Kasich, began calling Carson backers in New Hampshire who might be open to Kasich as a second or third choice. But these weren’t just shots in the dark. They were equipped with a target list of voters identified as social anchors—people who are particularly influential within their personal networks, based on information culled from yearbooks, church lists, sports rosters, and other sources nationwide.

The list was prepared by Applecart, a New York-based data company that specializes in taking social-network analysis offline. Rather than merely looking for relationships validated on sites like Facebook and Twitter, Applecart is using a variety of sources to build its own map of the analog links between Americans. The idea is to help campaigns identify the voters who are likeliest to shape the attitudes and opinions of others around them, and then work to engage them as supporters. Applecart’s approach upends the logic of volunteer campaigns, in which campaigns look outward from the supporters they already have; instead, Applecart’s system starts with the targets they want to reach and then moves back to find people who are connected with them. “What we’re talking about is not finding that Rihanna is probably influential to my 19-year-old female cousin, but that the one person in her community whose name no one knows yet is influential [to her] because they went to high school together,” says Sacha Samotin, 24, one of Applecart’s founders.