Presidential races

Cruz firm readies for psychological ops at GOP convention

Ted Cruz data firm with ties to a British company that conducts ‘psychological operations’ for foreign militaries could be the presidential candidate’s secret weapon in wooing delegates at the Republican Convention.

While Cruz’s staff has already proven adept at buttonholing delegates in convention halls around the country, another key part of the Texas senator’s delegate-targeting operation will likely involve the sophisticated use of technology.

{mosads}On Tuesday, The Hill conducted a Facebook Live interview with Brittany Kaiser, the director of program development at Cambridge Analytica, a conservative-aligned data analytics and psychographic profiling firm that works for the Cruz campaign. 

In the Facebook Live interview, Kaiser, who is firewalled off from the Cruz campaign, talks about the role of emotions such as fear in campaigns and how data can be used to get inside voters’ heads. She also explains how the distinct personality types of voters can be used to develop messages that make them more receptive to a presidential candidate — in this case, Cruz. 

“We have undertaken psychographically-informed research on millions of people throughout the country,” Kaiser said. “That allows us to match that information back to our database and then build a predictive model, extrapolate that out across the United States.” 

Kaiser said that Cruz would be packaged differently to potential voters depending on their personality type. “Open-minded” and extroverted people will be delivered targeted messages about how Cruz’s policies can give them a “more exciting life” and provide more opportunities to live out their dreams. 

Neurotic types will more likely be reminded of their fears and insecurities and then told about Cruz policies that could make them feel safer and more secure.

Asked whether the purpose was to make voters more afraid, Kaiser said, “You’re really catering to the fears they already had… It’s not really making them more scared or insecure than they already were.”

Cambridge Analytica is the U.S.-based offspring of a British firm, SCL, which claims a background in military-style “psychological operations.” SCL has done counter-terrorism and human rights work for foreign militaries, NATO and the U.S. government.

Funded in part by Robert Mercer, a New York hedge fund manager who has given at least $11.5 million to a pro-Cruz super-PAC, Cambridge Analytica claims to be able to predict voters’ personalities and manipulate their behavior using 5000 data points. Kaiser said the firm had purchased every available data set in the U.S.

Kaiser works outside a “firewall” constructed around the Cambridge Analytica Cruz team and so she is not privy to the campaigns’ hidden tactics, but she said the firm’s expertise in psychological profiling could help Cruz persuade delegates at the Republican convention to back the Texas senator when they become unbound.

Cambridge Analytica has in the past done psychographic profiling on lawmakers who work on committees or sub-committees that are dealing with legislation that the firm’s clients require action on.

Using data to individually target the 2,472 delegates for a potentially contested Republican convention in Cleveland would be a similar exercise, Kaiser said.

“It’s a way of data-driven lobbying,” Kaiser said. “It could definitely be applied for the upcoming contested convention…understanding who’s in that room, who’s more persuadable, what they care about and what you need to talk to them about.

“I don’t work directly on the [Cruz] campaign,” she added, “but there are tons of us working on his campaign every day at Cambridge Analytica and I would be quite surprised if they didn’t make the most use of our technology in the upcoming convention.”

Asked whether Cambridge Analytica could use its parent company’s military-style “psy ops” on Donald Trump, to expose and poke at the Republican front-runner’s psychological vulnerabilities, Kaiser laughed and nodded.

“Hypothetically, yes indeed,” she said. “We definitely could.”

“I think this election cycle, if people do ask us to profile their opponents, we will be able to delve further into that than we ever have before …”

– This story was updated on April 27 at 11:42 a.m.

Tags Donald Trump Ted Cruz

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