10 Apr 2018

New documents reveal Cambridge Analytica pitched ‘unique’ social media data in multiple US election campaigns

According to previously unseen documents obtained by Channel 4 News, Cambridge Analytica was pitching its “unique” social media data and “psychographic profiling” to multiple Republican election campaigns in the US after harvesting the profiles of up to 87 million mostly American Facebook users.

Channel 4 News can reveal the company boasted that the social media data was used to create “message concepts”, “creative concepts” and “scripting for direct voter contact programs” to micro-target voters.

The company claimed the data it had gathered was successfully used by the North Carolina Republican Party, the advocacy group For America, the Senate Majority Fund’s campaign in Colorado and campaigns run by the John Bolton Super PAC supporting Republican candidates in Arkansas, North Carolina and New Hampshire.

The company’s work for the Bolton Super PAC was first reported by the New York Times.

In the pitch document, Cambridge Analytica boasts about the “unique” data it used to identify voters for the North Carolina GOP.

“Harnessing our unique data-rich voter file, we were able to accurately predict partisanship, turnout, issue importance and build psychographic profiles for all voters in North Carolina.  We produced clusters of voters based on the modeled data to maximize campaign impact, which enabled the creation of tailored messages directed to specific voter groups.”

In its work for the advocacy group For America, CA claimed it had boosted turnout among target voters by an average of 8%.

“Using detailed audience modeling techniques, CA Political created Internet banner advertisements based on the modeled importance of issues amongst target groups. Some were issues of broad national significance, while others spoke to candidates’ key issues in their respective campaigns.

“Every advert contained creative collateral that was tailored to voter personality profiles, and had clear calls to action which reminded target audience members to vote… Overall, CA Political was successful in increasing turnout amongst previously low-turnout voter audiences: postelection analysis of voter turnout revealed an average increase of 8%.”

The company also provided further details of the work it carried out in state elections in Colorado in 2014.

“The CA Political team designed and wrote copy for issue-specific mailers to be disseminated to target populations according to modeled issue importance and psychographic profiles.

“For the first six weeks following deployment, voters would receive one issue-specific direct mail product per week, with the focus shifting towards the promotion of specific candidates and their individual selling points in the later stages of the campaign.

“In the final two weeks of the campaign, the CA Political team prepared GOTV mail pieces and lists of voters identified as likely Republicans with moderate propensity to vote.

The messaging on these GOTV mail products was also formulated for specific psychographic profiles identified amongst the target population, and emphasized the social importance of voting as well as issue-specific messages likely to influence voting behavior amongst turnout targets.”

In North Carolina the company explained how it had segmented voters into different groups according to their personality types. The work was used in the 2014 Senate election, where Thom Tillis was the Republican candidate.

The document states: “Voter groups were segmented by their personality, psychographic profiles and ranking of issue importance. Post-campaign independent testing revealed statistically significant increases in the number of people who identified national security as their primary issue across groups.

“North Carolina Group 3 consisted of young, female voters who displayed high neuroticism and cared most about the economy, national security and immigration. These voters were shown advertisements that highlighted the failures of the current administration’s national security policy.

“North Carolina Group 4 consisted of an even split of male and female voters who displayed high conscientiousness and agreeableness. These voters cared most about the economy and education, so were shown advertisements that positioned national security as a family and social issue.”

Video commercials were created appealing to these different groups.

The document explains how “high neuroticism” voters were targeted with ads focusing on fears about national security:

“High Agreeable and conscientiousness” voters were “microtargeted” with a different message featuring children running through parks, and sunny cornfields:

Tonight, Facebook told Channel 4 News: “Cambridge Analytica certified to us that they had destroyed the data in 2015. The UK data regulator is now investigating to find out if this claim was in fact true. We have started notifying everyone who might have been affected and have announced a number of measures to tighten our systems and restrict the data that apps can request.”

In a press release issued last night, Cambridge Analytica stated it’s “Time for facts not conjecture.”

Additionally, Cambridge Analytica has made clear to Channel 4 News that the data in question was not Facebook data. They say that they and a different company called ‘Cint’ generated new data from a survey of over 40,000 users with their consent.

Watch the entire Channel 4 News “Data, Democracy and Dirty Tricks” investigation.