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Obama 2012: The Most Micro-Targeted Campaign in History?
In his 2010 book "The Audacity to Win," Obama 2008 campaign director David Plouffe explained that the goal of the campaign was not only to ensure high participation and turn out from the Democratic base but also to expand the size of the electorate by mobilizing first-time voters among young adults and minorities. To reach these voters, the campaign focused on Internet and text message strategies, sending more than a 1 billion emails over the course of the campaign, and turning My.Barack.Obama.com into a powerful echo-chamber where all things campaign related were re-interpreted through the prism of a pro-Obama outlook.
In today's Washington Post, Dan Eggen adds to a series of articles at the Post and NY Times detailing the Obama 2012 campaign's even more advanced micro-targeting and Internet strategies. As Eggen writes, Obama's dog Bo and pet lovers have been added to the mix of targeting appeals:
For the Obama campaign, pet lovers are just one niche among many, with specific appeals aimed at women, African Americans, students, military families and countless others. The result is a campaign that might be the most micro-targeted in history, attempting to use the power of the Web and social media to reach ever-thinner slices of the electorate.
Nearly half of the Obama campaign’s March budget — $6.7 million — went toward Internet ads, many of them targeting specific demographic or interest groups. Romney has been less aggressive in micro-targeting efforts and has spent only a tenth as much on online advertising.
Pro-Obama Internet ads featuring Bo, which have run steadily in recent months, urge voters to“Bark for Barack” by donating to the campaign. Official “Pet Lovers for Obama” pages onFacebook, Pinterest and other social media sites feature pictures of the president and his dog and invite supporters to share their own pet photos.
The campaign also offers nearly a dozen Bo- or pet-themed products on its Web site, including a $12 “Cats for Obama” collar and a $35 red, white and blue “Obama Dog” sweater. “This adorable Obama dog sweater will keep your furry friend feeling cozy and looking stylish,” the description says.
Other subgroups targeted by the Obama campaign include nurses (featuring bumper stickers, magnets and T-shirts); Latinos (with a line of products including clothing and buttons); and young mothers (including a $20 “Babies for Obama” onesie).
The categories expand on Obama’s efforts in 2008, which pushed the boundaries of political campaigns by aggressively marketing the candidate to groups within the disparate Democratic base. The segmenting underscores the importance that turnout is likely to play in the tightening race between Obama and Romney.
Reasons to Be Concerned About Microtargeting
But there are disadvantages to this strategy. For one, regardless of where you stand politically, the increasing need to resort to ever more advanced social media strategies and targeted appeals should be troubling. As a consequence of our fragmented media system and our escalating culture of polarization, I and other scholars fear that moderates, young people, and minorities are opting out of public affairs news in increasing numbers.
And among partisans, the targeted appeals offered via Facebook, Twitter, and the Web only likely fuel further polarization. The "war on women" frame -- what is emerging as the main appeal used by Democrats to target women voters -- is just one of many possible examples.
Yet there is also another trap that echoes the weaknesses of the 2004 John Kerry campaign. Unlike 2008's "Change We Can Believe In," the Obama team in 2012 has struggled to produce an effective master narrative. In micro-targeting so many messages -- like Kerry in 2004 -- the Obama campaign may be offering so many different appeals that they end up offering messages for no one. This is a potential trap noted by Eggen in his article:
Peter Daou, a digital media strategist who worked for John F. Kerry’s and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Democratic presidential campaigns, said there’s a danger of losing sight of the broader themes and voter-organizing efforts needed to win elections.
“Some of this can be taken a little too far, because the macro environment is always going to override the narrow interests of various voters,” Daou said. “Once you’re getting down to pet lovers, I have a feeling that the bigger issues will override any of the work you do there. It can help on the margins, but that’s about it.”
Watch the clip below from the documentary on the 2004 campaign "So Goes the Nation," in which Bush strategist Mark McKinnon and Democratic strategist Paul Begala add further insight on this micro-targeting trap.
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Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
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In a recent study, researchers examined how Christian nationalism is affecting the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A new study used survey data to examine the interplay between Christian nationalism and incautious behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The researchers defined Christian nationalism as "an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture."
- The results showed that Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior.
A pastor at the chapel of the St. Josef Hospital on April 1, 2020 in Bochum, German
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images<p>Christian nationalists, in general, believe the U.S. and God's will are tied together, and they want the government to embody conservative Christian values and symbols. As such, they also believe the nation's fate depends on how closely it adheres to Christianity.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unsurprisingly then, in the midst of the COVID‐19 pandemic, conservative pastors prophesied God's protection over the nation, citing America's righteous support for President Trump and the prolife agenda," the researchers write.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Correspondingly, the link between Christian nationalism and God's influence on how COVID‐19 impacts America can be seen in proclamations about God's divine judgment for its immorality―with the logic being that God is using the pandemic to draw wayward America <em>back </em>to himself, which assumes the two belong together."</p><p>The logical conclusion to this kind of thinking: America can save itself not through cautionary measures, like mask-wearing, but through devotion to God. What's more, it stands to reason that Christian nationalists are less likely to trust the media and scientists, given that these sources are generally not concerned with promoting a conservative, religious view of the world.</p><p>(The researchers note that they're unaware of any research directly linking Christian nationalism to distrust of media sources, but that they're almost certain the two are connected.)</p>
Predicted values of Americans' frequency of incautious behaviors during the COVID‐19 pandemic across values of Christian nationalism
Perry et al.<p>In the new study, the researchers examined three waves of results from the Public and Discourse Ethics Survey. One wave of the survey was issued in May, and it asked respondents to rate how often they engaged in both incautious and precautionary behaviors.</p><p>Incautious behaviors included things like "ate inside a restaurant" and "went shopping for nonessential items," while precautionary behaviors included "washed my hands more often than typical" and "wore a mask in public."</p><p>To measure Christian nationalism, the researchers asked respondents to rate how strongly they agree with statements like "the federal government should advocate Christian values" and "the success of the United States is part of God's plan."</p><p>The results suggest that, compared to other groups, Christian nationalists are far less likely to wear masks, socially distance and take other precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior during the pandemic, and the second leading predictor that Americans avoided taking precautionary measures."</p><p>But that's not to say that religious beliefs are causing Americans to reject mask-wearing or social distancing. In fact, when the study accounted for Christian nationalist beliefs, the results showed that Americans with high levels of religiosity were likely to take precautionary measures for COVID-19.</p>
Limitations<p>Still, the researchers note that they're theorizing about the connections between Christian nationalism and COVID-19 behaviors, not documenting them directly. What's more, they suggest that certain experiences — such as having a family member that contracts COVID-19 — might change a Christian nationalist's behaviors during the pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Limitations notwithstanding, the implications of this study are important for understanding Americans' curious inability to quickly implement informed and reasonable strategies to overcome the threat of COVID‐19, an inability that has likely cost thousands of lives," they write.</p>
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