To Get Out The Vote, Evangelicals Try Data Mining The company United In Purpose is going through personal data — from magazine subscriptions to NASCAR ticket purchases — to identify unregistered Christian conservatives and sign them up. UIP hopes to sway the 2012 elections by signing up 5 million new voters.
NPR logo

To Get Out The Vote, Evangelicals Try Data Mining

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
To Get Out The Vote, Evangelicals Try Data Mining

To Get Out The Vote, Evangelicals Try Data Mining

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


From NPR News, this ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


I'm Audie Cornish. And it's time now for All Tech Considered.


CORNISH: Today on All Tech - data mining for conservative Christians. A new organization is targeting millions of unregistered believers and trying to persuade them to vote in the next election.

As NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty explains, the idea could be a game-changer, though it comes with a few hitches.

BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY, BYLINE: When Bill Dallas first heard that 15 to 20 million Christians are not registered to vote, he couldn't believe it.

BILL DALLAS: Initially it surprised me. And then I thought to myself, wait a minute, I'm not registered. And I said, well, why wasn't I registered? Well, because I didn't think my vote made a difference.

HAGERTY: Dallas has since become a voter and now runs United in Purpose, a startup nonprofit company that uses data mining to identify unregistered Christians. The company persuaded wealthy Silicon Valley conservatives to helps fund a database of every adult in the country. It buys lists to build a profile of each citizen, and then assigns points for certain characteristics.

So, Dallas says, you get points if you're on a pro-life list, or a traditional marriage list. If you regularly attend church or home school your kids, if you like NASCAR or fishing.

DALLAS: If it totaled over 600 points, then we realized you are very serious about your faith. And then we run that person against the voter registration database. And if they were not registered that became one of our key people that we were going to target to go after.

HAGERTY: Dallas hopes to register five million people in the next year, which he believes could help decide the 2012 race. To that end, the company is recruiting volunteers from places like the Family Research Council to make the calls and knock on doors. They're called champions.

SCOTT SPAGES: My name is Scott Spages. I'm a 25-year political activist.

HAGERTY: Scott Spages, from Davy, Florida, signed up as a champion because he feels that electing moral leaders is a biblical mandate.

SPAGES: God says that when the righteous rule, the people rejoice, and when the wicked rule the people groan. So, as a Christian, we are specifically called upon by the Bible and by God to raise up our leaders.

HAGERTY: Spages wants to bring that message to his Christian neighbors. So, he logs onto the United in Purpose database, enters his address and the database finds unregistered Christians nearby.

SPAGES: And so, now I have maybe 15 names have popped up, mostly in my vicinity

HAGERTY: Spages heads off, Google Maps in hand. The first person lives in a gated community. The guard won't let him through, so he makes a phone call.

SPAGES: Yeah, my name is Scott. I'm here as a volunteer for the Family Research Council. We identify him as a Christian who's not registered to vote. Oh, OK. OK. So, Orlando and everyone in the house is registered.


HAGERTY: It happens at the next house and the one after. So, when Spages reaches Brenda Jacobson to ask if she wants to register, he's not surprised.

BRENDA JACOBSON: Well, I'm registered. So, I'm not sure why my name showed up.

SPAGES: And we found that a lot tonight. We found a lot of people, now we're all registered. Everybody is cleared. So, I'm going to have to double check that.

JACOBSON: Wow. Yeah, huh?

HAGERTY: Turns out, all the names on Florida's list are registered, a mistake United in Purpose discovered after NPR's reporting.

Now, in Ohio, the database worked perfectly. And 67-year-old Kay Clymer was eager to use it. Clymer is a Tea Partier and evangelical Christian in Zanesville.

KAY CLYMER: I do strongly, strongly believe that the Lord is totally in control. I pray for a Red Sea experience like he did with the Egyptians, and wash those people out that don't belong in office, and that's what keeps me going.


HAGERTY: A woman answers. Clymer pitches.

CLYMER: I'm Kay Clymer, and I'm with Champion the Vote and United in Purpose. And I'm out trying to get people to vote that might not be registered. Are you registered to vote?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: I'm not, but my husband is.

CLYMER: Would you like to be registered to vote?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: No, I wouldn't waste my time on any of them.


HAGERTY: At the next house, it's a bit more prickly.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: I'm sorry, they're all crooks. And you'll never be able to blame me.

CLYMER: I'm just trying to get Christians to vote.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Yup. Well, I'm a Christian, but that's as far as it's going to go.


HAGERTY: Clymer leaves, discouraged.

CLYMER: I wish at least one person would take it.

HAGERTY: But no one takes a registration form that afternoon.

Afterwards, I called Bill Dallas, the head of United in Purpose, to tell him the results. He was embarrassed that they botched the list in Florida and philosophical about Ohio.

DALLAS: When you look at all these factors, you realize what a, you know, Herculean effort this is to try to bring a large group of new voters into the voting population.

HAGERTY: Dallas' experiment shows the promise and peril of having a bottomless well of data to draw upon. Accessing it is one thing, using it effectively is another thing entirely.

Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR News.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.