Cambridge Analytica is crunching data for the Trump campaign
They use personality tests and voting records to create tailored political ads
In a non-descript office in central London, young analytical minds are hard at work crunching thousands of pieces of data about every American adult.
They are Donald Trump’s secret political weapon. His campaign paid more than $5 million in September alone to Cambridge Analytica, which claims it can convince voters to back him by tailoring Trump’s political ads to their personalities.
Their approach combines micro-targeting, already in use in political campaigning, with psychological profiling. The company gathers up to 5,000 pieces of data about a potential voter to create a psychological profile, then adapts political ads to his or her personality and beliefs.
Using a survey usually placed on social media, the company invites users to take a personality test. The results of that test help the company group people under personality types measuring openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.
Data-crunchers then combine individuals’ personalities with their voting history, where they shop, what they buy – even what they watch on television.
The personality test doesn’t indicate that this is the purpose of the test, so it’s likely those who fill it out are unaware of how it will be matched with other data freely available or purchasable from cable and credit card companies.
With that, according to Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix, they know the best way to target the individual and what message to use.
“We can then marry this data with cookies to serve people (ads) though social media or digitally, or we can match these data to television viewing data so we can understand where the audiences are that we’re interested in, what programs they’re watching, and we can then serve them messages during those shows,” he explained.
The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
The company does not release examples of ads it’s produced for an ongoing campaign, but it did provide CNN with examples from its work for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz when he was challenging Trump in the GOP presidential primaries.
One was created for a “Stoic Traditionalist” who values time in isolation, is unadventurous and tends to be unassuming in their disposition. It shows Cruz alone with the tag line “keep calm and Cruz on.” The other, a “Relaxed Leader” who is sociable, generally optimistic and empathizes with the emotions of others, depicts the whole Cruz family with the words “our best days are ahead.”