Political campaigns target Catholics at Mass

catholics at mass

In 2016, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin by fewer than 23,000 votes.

This time, a group that favours Trump is trying to ensure a repeat victory. And it’s using something called geofencing to find Catholics at Mass.

For All Tech Considered, NPR’s Audie Cornish spoke with Heidi Schlumpf of the National Catholic Reporter about what’s going on.

HEIDI SCHLUMPF: Geofencing is a way of data mining that targets people based on their location.

So when you agree to those apps that want to share your location data, geofencers are able to capture that when you enter or leave a geographically prescribed area – in this case, a church.

CORNISH: How does it happen?

I mean, what is the trigger?

I guess, as you’re going to and from Mass?

SCHLUMPF: If your phone is on and you have an app open in which you’ve allowed the sharing of location data, the geofencers can capture your IP address and other data from your phone.

Then they can target ads directly to that device.

But they can also cross-reference that data that they’ve acquired with other data sets, so in this case, probably voter rolls. And already we have this conservative Catholic organization that’s doing exactly that to try to target Catholic voters.

CORNISH: Who’s the organization, and what have you learned about what they’re up to?

SCHLUMPF: The organization is called CatholicVote.

And on their website, it lists a number of issues that are important to them.

But in the end, they narrow it down to three culture war issues. And that’s abortion, gay marriage and what they call religious liberty.

CORNISH: Now, you report that using geofencing, CatholicVote has already identified some 200,000 Catholics in Wisconsin, which of course is a key state heading into 2020.

They’re able to discover that half of those Mass-goers are not registered to vote. Help us understand, from there, how does this give them the advantage, so to speak?

SCHLUMPF: Yeah. CatholicVote, the organization, is planning what they’re calling the largest Catholic voter mobilization program ever, based on this geofenced information that they’ve mined.

It’s basically a get-out-the-vote effort.

They’ve identified people who are regular Mass-goers.

They want to get them registered to vote and get them to the polls because they have data that shows that 60% to 70% of regular Catholic churchgoers – again, especially in these geographic areas of white suburban churches that they’re targeting – are going to vote for the Republican Party, and in this case, Donald Trump. Continue reading

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