10 August 2012

Checking the political affiliations of your neighbors

From an article at ProPublica:
Curious how many Democrats live on your block? Just download the Obama campaign's new mobile app. The app, released last week, includes a Google map for canvassers that recognizes your current location and marks nearby Democratic households with small blue flags.

For each targeted address, the app displays the first name, age and gender of the voter or voters who live there: "Lori C., 58 F, Democrat."

All this is public information, which campaigns have long given to volunteers. But you no longer have to schedule a visit to a field office and wait for a staffer to hand you a clipboard and a printed-out list of addresses. With the Obama app, getting a glimpse of your neighbor's political affiliation can take seconds.

While The New York Times dubbed the app "the science-fiction dream of political operatives," some of the voters who appear in the app are less enthusiastic about it. "I do think it's something useful for them, but it's also creepy," said Lori Carena, 58, a long-time Brooklyn resident, when she was shown the app. "My neighbors across the street can know that I'm a Democrat. I'm not sure I like that."

It's unclear if the app displays all registered Democrats who live in a certain area, or only a subset of voters President Obama's campaign is trying to reach.

Asked about the privacy aspects of the new app, a spokesperson for the Obama campaign wrote that "anyone familiar with the political process in America knows this information about registered voters is available and easily accessible to the public." 
I know the political affiliations of some of my neighbors, because I know which lawns sprouted McCain/Palin signs last election and which ones posted "Recall Walker" signs more recently.  And I can sense political leanings from cocktail and backyard conversations.  But I'm not sure I'm comfortable with databases like this one being distributed more widely.

More details and viewpoints, and a link to the app at ProPublica.


  1. I'd say, all or nothing. If I don't want my neighbors to have this data, then I don't want _anyone_ to have it.

  2. This is just more divisiveness. Most people are not Democrats or Republicans, they're people who customarily vote D or R. When we start labeling, we enable 'us vs. them'.

    And it's completely unnecessary, IMO.

    And in this instance, the fact that it's publicly available information is no excuse. Very few people will take the time and trouble to go get this info from voter rolls, but a few clicks to find it? Hey, that's so easy, why not?

    1. Yep. Call me a skeptic of the average Joe in a bar but I fear it is only a matter of time before there are a bunch of drunks play the adult version of (i.e. far more destructive version than...) "let's go egg some houses".

      Also, I know of at least two people who've registered with the opposing party. Why? The first claims that since her husband is already registered for the party they like, her registration gives them an inside view of what the [less than]'s are doing (those are her words, sort of). The second's strategy is that, as a single vote, you can do far more to help your side win by misguiding the other party during their primaries and such.

      Me, I've almost given up. As Lewis Black has said, "our two party system is a bowl of [excrement] looking at itself in the mirror".

  3. Why do Americans have to register as a political affiliation? I'm pretty sure this is unusual. We don't do it in Canada.

    1. I got the answer at metafilter.
      "It's pretty straightforward -- If you don't register, you can only vote in general elections where there are candidates from more than one party. If you register with a party, you get to vote in that party's primary elections, where they choose who will run in the general election."
      And I have to say I like this idea. To do this in Canada, I think I would have to join the party.

  4. I don't like it at ALL! I hate to see our citizenry divided any more than it already is.

  5. It's all about the marketing. You're a customer, not a voter. It's no different than swiping a card at the supermarket to get 50 cents off a gallon of milk. But at least a supermarket will give you a choice between paper or plastic bags.

  6. It's not very fair. I usually wind up voting Republican, but that is not necessarily a great indicator of my personal stances. It just signifies an individual's choice regarding what is left over.

    The polarization thing is so sad. As if there is a united kind of "Republican" or "Democrat". The complexities of the economy and moral issues cannot be boiled down to two choices.

  7. Well this is nice to know=(

    Just had a canvasser at my door yesterday wanting to speak with me. My husband thought he'd be clever and tell her I wasn't able to come to the door. Maybe he should have said I wasn't home at all because she talked too minutes too many to someone who just doesn't care one way or another, lol!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...