Data mining 101: B.C. political parties harvest personal information to advance electoral prospects

    1 of 5 2 of 5

      With the next B.C. election less than 17 months away, the race is on to find out what issues tickle the fancy of millennials.

      That's because provincial political parties want to gather as much information as possible about younger voters in the era of rampant data mining.

      As the last federal election showed, younger voters and new Canadians can determine the outcome of an election.

      Justin Trudeau wouldn't be prime minister with a majority government were it not for the sharp increase in turnout among post-baby boom generations.

      Moreover, the parties don't have nearly as much information about millennials as they've accumulated on older voters.

      This is the backdrop for the B.C. Liberals seeking feedback on the so-called sharing economy, which has been embraced by millennials.

      The governing party believes those who support Uber, Airbnb, and Lyft can be wooed into the B.C. Liberal camp in 2017 with the right kind of targeted messages.

      Everyone in politics knows that young people don't watch nearly as much TV as the older generation.

      So there's no point trying to reach them with advertisements on 6 o'clock newscasts.

      But hey, harvest an email address and a postal code, and the B.C. Liberal candidate can deliver the message with a personal touch.

      Similarly, the B.C. NDP is conducting a survey on, of all things, craft beer.

      That's because craft beer drinkers tend to be younger, urban, and could play a pivotal role in certain political races around the province.

      So step right up, give the B.C. NDP your email address, and prepare for an onslaught of pitches as the election draws closer.

      The Greens have a different challenge. They don't have nearly as much detailed information about the electorate as the two major parties in B.C., so they're focusing on a broader age range with their data-mining initiatives.

      Hence if you go to the B.C. Greens' website, you'll see online petitions about medical-services premiums and the Site C dam.

      Anyone who disputes that political parties are creating profiles of individual voters' preferences hasn't read Sasha Issenberg's The Victory Lab or Susan Delacourt's Shopping for Votes: How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose Them. Both authors have proved beyond a doubt that data mining is driving political parties' strategy.

      Another book that highlighted the extent of data mining in modern politics is John Nichols's Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex Is Destroying America. For more on that, watch the video below—and be wary about whom you share your email and postal code with.

      Author John Nichols says political parties are gathering mountains of data about voters.