By Dan Patterson CBS News November 6, 2018, 11:01 AM How campaigns use big data tools to micro-target voters

In the race to secure victory in an election former President Barack Obama called the "most important of our lifetime," both political parties are using big data to get out the vote.

Political big data is a term often applied to enormous piles of information about individual voters that is organized computationally by algorithms. Political data vendors like L2 Political use a database technology called HaystaqDNA that allows campaigns to quickly sift and sort through voter registration information, census records, likely income, voter home addresses, voting history and "interest graph" data gathered by political parties.

L2 overlays the information on a map of the United States. Campaigns can zoom out to see the entire country, or zoom way in to get a clear view of states and voting districts.Campaigns can also export HaystaqDNA information to common file formats like Microsoft Excel for further analysis by staffers.

2012 election data.

Image: L2 Political

The interest graph information is extensive and allows campaigns to cross-reference demographic information with voter affinity related to hot-button issues like gun control, abortion, the border wall and marijuana legalization. That allows campaigns to craft and target direct mail, robocalls, canvassing routes and social media marketing.

"[After the 2016 campaign] people said they relied on analytics. They relied on these predictive models and at least that's what was being fed out publicly. Really at the end of the day, their models looked good. Their models were actually put together in a really solid way and the team there was among the best in the country," said L2 vice president Paul Westcott.

In 2018, campaigns are using L2 and predictive analytics powered by big data to model outcome scenarios based on early voting data. Westcott said massive datasets can help campaigns micro-target small but influential groups of voters.

"[Precision data] is the core of what we're reaching out to when we're trying to get our 600 person sample or 1,000 person sample. So the core data matters. The underlying data matters," Westcott said.

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