Using a Personality-Profiling Algorithm to Investigate Political Microtargeting

Political advertisers have access to increasingly sophisticated microtargeting techniques. One such technique is tailoring ads to the personality traits of citizens. Questions have been raised about the effectiveness of this political microtargeting (PMT) technique. In two experiments, we investigate the causal effects of personality-congruent political ads. In Study 1, we first assess participants’ extraversion trait by means of their own text data (i.e., by using a personality profiling algorithm), and in a second phase, target them with either a personality-congruent or incongruent political ad. In Study 2, we followed the same protocol, but instead targeted participants with emotionally-charged congruent ads, to establish whether PMT can be effective on an affect-based level. The results show evidence that citizens are more strongly persuaded by political ads that match their own personality traits. These findings feed into relevant and timely contributions to a salient academic and societal debate

  • Brahim Zarouali (University of Amsterdam)
  • Tom Dobber (University of Amsterdam)
  • Guy De Pauw (TEXTGAIN)
  • Claes de Vreese (University of Amsterdam)
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