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American Digital Politics and the Commercial Sector

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica revelations, the connection between commercial practices and modern political advertising remains under-examined. Political advertising in the United States has adopted the same, proven strategies used to market and sell digital products. What’s more, these developments are not new; the commercial sector has long transformed the playbook of American politics, and the present, digital-first techniques powered by personal data are the latest such example. When viewed in this context, Cambridge Analytica’s endeavour to quantify, in the words of its ex-CEO, “the personality of every single adult in the United States of America” is not an exception. It is, instead, another example of commercial tactics incorporated into the American campaigning and electoral process with ripple effects around the globe. This U.S. case study explores the historical context of America’s digital-political marketing system, the growth of its digital marketing industry, and the democratic consequences of their convergence.

For this report, Tactical Tech partnered with Jeff Chester, Executive Director of the Center for Digital Democracy, and Kathryn Montgomery, Professor of Communication at American University.

Read the overview or access the full report. Head to Our Data Our Selves - Data and Politics for more releases from The Influence Industry - a series looking at the use of data in political campaigning and elections.