Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign made payments totaling $750,372 to Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics company that specializes in voter personality profiling, according to information released last week by the Federal Election Commission. The purpose of the payments was listed as “web service/donor modeling.”
Another GOP presidential campaign, Carson for America, paid the company $220,000 for “data management service” and “web service.”
The U.S. affiliate of the London-based behavioral research company SCL Group, Cambridge Analytica entered the U.S. market in 2012, according to its British chief executive Alexander Nix, and was involved in 44 U.S. races last year.
With its provision of services to two Republican presidential campaigns, the company is joining a high-stakes GOP race to overtake the Democrats’ technological superiority in 2008 and 2012.
Cambridge Analytica has attracted attention because of its potential financial connection to Robert L. Mercer, the media-shy hedge-fund multimillionaire who gave $11 million to a super PAC supporting Cruz. A high percentage of prior disbursements to Cambridge Analytica came from committees that have received donations from Mercer or close family members.
Cambridge Analytica aims to increase the accuracy of micro-targeting by adding “psychographic analysis” to widely available demographic data. Potential voters who look much the same on paper — a 35-year-old white woman from Iowa, for example — may have very different personalities that make them care about different things and respond to different political messages, according to Nix.
One Second Amendment supporter might react to an ad showing a grandfather and grandson out hunting together, for example. Another might be unmoved by that image but respond to the sight of a house window being broken by an armed robber.
To get the right message to the right person, Cambridge Analytica collates updated Myers Briggs-style profiling known as OCEAN Five with information drawn from national data sets, which included information on everything from which churches or clubs voters attend to the magazines they buy, the Web pages they visit and their level of education, Nix said. (The key traits in OCEAN Five are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.)
The pro-Republican data-analytics company, which has offices in Washington and in the News Corps building in New York, as well as in London, currently has about 85 employees and “will grow with demand,” Nix said.