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   What’s for Dinner? The Pollster Wants to Know

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4/16/2008 7:00 pm

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New York Times

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News

Database Record

Entered 4/16/2008, Updated 4/16/2008

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By KIM SEVERSON Published: April 16, 2008 IF there’s butter and white wine in your refrigerator and Fig Newtons in the cookie jar, you’re likely to vote for Hillary Clinton. Prefer olive oil, Bear Naked granola and a latte to go? You probably like Barack Obama, too. And if you’re leaning toward John McCain, it’s all about kicking back with a bourbon and a stuffed crust pizza while you watch the Democrats fight it out next week in Pennsylvania. If what we eat says a lot about who we are, it also says something about how we might vote. Although precincts and polls are being parsed, the political advisers to the presidential candidates are also looking closely at consumer behavior, including how people eat, as a way to scavenge for votes. The practice is called microtargeting, as much political discipline as buzzword. The idea is that in the brand-driven United States, what we buy and how we spend our free time is a good predictor of our politics. Political strategists slice and dice the electorate into small segments, starting with traditional demographics like age and income, then mixing consumer information like whether you prefer casinos or cruises, hunting or cooking, a Prius or a pickup. Once they find small groups of like-minded people, campaigns can efficiently send customized phone, e-mail or direct mail messages to potential supporters, avoiding inefficient one-size-fits-all mailings. Pockets of support that might have gone unnoticed can be ferreted out.


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