Sometime in the mid-1990’s my husband and I made a financial decision: We would use our credit card for all our purchases, so we can get thousands of frequent flyer miles. We knew by doing this we were creating a significant trail of data on our family, but the incentive of free flights trumped our fears.

Now, ten or so years later, I am realized that this information was used to microtarget our family in the political world. In the book Applebees’s America (2006) the authors states that the Bush team purchased consumer credit card data. From this data the Bush team knew if people drank wine, skied, or purchased cat food, etc.  

Sosnik, Dowd, and Fournier call this “Life Targeting—because the strategy tracks people based on their lifestyles” (p. 3). Armed with this information the Bush campaign in Michigan used this information to do extensive analysis on each individual. This in turn helped them frame a voter’s positions on hot-button (Sosnik, Dowd, & Fournier, 2006, p. 38).  They used this information to tailor their message to each group of people.

Looking back now, I understand the constant letters we received from the Bush campaign were the result of this micro-targeting.  These letters did seem to speak right to the heart of my core values—integrity and honor.  Cillizza wrote, “Messages are targeted to each individual segment; as a result, the issues you hear about also happen to be the ones you are most interested in.”

Knowing that politicians expertly frame their message to certain groups of people leaves me wondering: Is this process really a part of democracy or is this manipulation an avenue towards repression?