DemLabs blog

How to find targets

Ready. Aim. Fire.

Accurate targeting matters. That's why businesses spend billions for the best data to target their outreach. It's the same with campaigns: data quality will determine your results.

Innovative campaigns enhance their traditional sources with data services that corporate America relies on. These services are also ideal to find people, who may not be in the voter file to begin with. This includes people too young to register to vote or residents who aren't citizens but should be counted by the census. You can add these  people to your own voter file or mailing list.

It's all about the data
Data brokers collect information about people from a number of sources, then organize and sell it. Here are six considerations to check how good your data is:
1. How complete is the information? Does it include everyone in a given area?
2. How current is it? When was it last updated? How regularly is it refreshed? (People may have moved away).
3. How detailed is it? How many different ways can you search the data?
4. How comprehensive is it? How many different ways does it offer you to contact your target audience? (Addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, social media handles).
5. Is the information enriched? Does include only historical data or does it also make projections? (Some surveys like the census happen every ten years, but data scientists can also enrich the data in the interim with predictions and other surveys).
6. How useful is it? Is the information geo-tagged with location details? Can it be exported and be used with other software applications?

We used Esri for this project. This fifty year old, multi-billion dollar firm provides data with over15,000 variables to choose from. It is widely used by businesses. Its customers include Uber, FedEx and the US Government.

(Full disclosure: DemLabs isn't paid by any firm whose products used or reviewed).

A recent DemLabs project to find unregistered voters in district CA-22 shows how simple and affordable this approach is.

1. Select
The group selected was 18 year old Hispanics in the district as they became eligible to register to vote. The search criteria of [ethnic origin] and [age] was entered in to Esri's Community Analyst. This generated a map that showed high density clusters. The darker the color, the higher the concentration. The size of each circle corresponds to the number of people with the selected traits in that location.

Targeting map

2. GeoFence
The next step was to find the addresses of people living in those high density clusters. One such area with young potential Hispanic voters was on E. Huntington Blvd. between 6th and 8th Streets. This area was marked (geofenced) with a rectangle.


3. Get addresses
The final step is to generate a list of the addresses inside the geofenced area with another app. This list can be exported so that it could be used other software programs, or uploaded to the Voter File. This information could also include their email addresses and phone numbers as well.


Census related applications
The same approach of demographic selection with geofenced address searches can also be used for other applications such as finding minorities to encourage to take part in the 2020 census. Another DemLabs project locates areas in Minneapolis of people with high densities of people of Somali origin. High density clusters are shown in a darker shade of blue on the map.

Application examples

Businesses use rich data and geo-spatial analysis to make the most of their marketing budget. The data services they use are cost effective because the data vendors can spread their research costs over a large customer base. The same data can work just as well for campaigns and advocacy groups. It can enhance the data you already use, and lets you do things you didn't even know were possible.

Contact DemLabs for advice when you're looking for innovative, affordable solutions for your next project. We'll be glad to help.

Co-Founder, DemLabs

Democracy Labs is a hub for ongoing technology and creative innovation that serves progressive groups at the national, state, and local levels. Donate here to support our work.

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DemLabs applies innovative technology and storytelling tools in service of democratic values. It lowers the barrier of funding for worthy candidates and non-profits by applying existing free/affordable solutions.