Fans Of The Walking Dead Elected Donald Trump

As is customary after a successful presidential campaign, the winning side has come in for a fawning feature about their unprecedented voter targeting and data gathering technology. So Donald Trump's data chief, son-in-law Jared Kushner, has received his hagiography for Forbes, which says that the Trump team used a unique targeting approach to win the election.

"Tools like Deep Root drove the scaled-back TV ad spending by identifying shows popular with specific voter blocks in specific regions–say, NCIS for anti-ObamaCare voters or The Walking Dead for people worried about immigration," Forbes writes. "Kushner built a custom geo-location tool that plotted the location density of about 20 voter types over a live Google Maps interface."

That's nice, but it's not the real story. (We'll just set aside the fact that blocs of Americans associate hordes of undead with immigrants. Politics is an ugly business.)

Praise for the campaign's voter targeting seems utterly absurd. Granted, their votes came very cheap: Reuters notes that they paid only $5 in spending per vote, against nearly twice that for Hillary Clinton. But the Trump campaign benefited from an unprecedented and baffling 11th-hour intervention by FBI Director James Comey, a steady drip of hacked emails from the Clinton campaign that created an image of wrongdoing, rafts of fake news using the low-information segment of the electorate to drive traffic and profit, and networks like CNN employing a surrogate like Corey Lewandowski for months. He was still on the Trump campaign payroll, and under a non-disclosure agreement at the time.

Anecdotally even, there were times when I was flooded with pro-Trump advertising. Often, that would be on Twitter (where I followed Clinton and not Trump), Facebook (where I am geotagged in a heavily Clinton district), and on political sites like Talking Points Memo (which criticized Trump nearly daily, and continues to do so.) Don't just take my word for it.
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What is true about Donald Trump's ad targeting is that it was at least partially aimed at suppressing voters by using Facebook's "ethnic affinities" option to create "dark posts" visible only to those whom it wanted to see. Bloomberg, writing before the election, highlighted an ad that used Hillary Clinton's 1996 "super-predators" blunder.

"The animation will be delivered to certain African American voters through Facebook 'dark posts'—nonpublic posts whose viewership the campaign controls so that, as Parscale puts it, 'only the people we want to see it, see it.' The aim is to depress Clinton’s vote total. 'We know because we’ve modeled this,' says the official. 'It will dramatically affect her ability to turn these people out.'"

That bet paid off. African American voters went for Clinton at 88% against Obama's 93%, according to CNN. And African American voter turnout fell from 13% to 12% of the electorate, which combined to give Donald Trump his razor-thin electoral college victory. Not only that, but this was the first election in decades without the protection of the Voting Rights Act, gutted in 2013.

But yeah, The Walking Dead.

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