How Political Strategists See Geolocation Data and Targeting

Geolocation data, paired with data about people’s behavior, offer campaigns a powerful resource–and there’s almost no regulation.

public health

September 16, 2023


The study delves into the role of geolocation data in political campaigns, particularly its influence on voter targeting. With the advent of data-driven electoral campaigns, political entities are leveraging databases to identify potential supporters and persuadable voters. The research emphasizes the significance of geolocation data, which provides dynamic information about individuals based on their activities in relation to time and place. The study also highlights the increasing reliance on data in modern political campaigns, where geolocation data is just one layer among many. The research was conducted through 14 semi-structured interviews with digital political strategists in the U.S.

While many people feel that individuals should have the technology and ability to determine when and if their data can be collected, there are no such regulations ensuring that.

Key Findings

  1. Geolocation data plays a foundational role in political advertising and campaign efforts, especially in identifying persuadable voters.
  2. There exists a discrepancy between public perception and the actual efficacy of location-based political campaigning.
  3. Geolocation data is often combined with other sources of data, such as voter registration files, to enhance targeting precision.
  4. Geofencing, a technology that sets virtual boundaries around specific locations, is a popular tool used in political campaigns to identify rally participants and track voters’ long-term mobility.
  5. There are concerns about the misuse of geolocation data, especially when combined with other data sources to bypass regulatory restrictions.


  1. Ethical Concerns: The use of geolocation data in political campaigns raises ethical concerns, especially when it comes to privacy and the potential misuse of data. The public is increasingly wary of how their data is being used, with many expressing concerns about the collection and sale of their location data.
  2. Regulatory Challenges: The study underscores the need for stricter regulations to ensure that geolocation data is used responsibly and ethically in political campaigns. The potential to bypass existing regulations by combining data sources poses a significant challenge.
  3. Public Awareness: There is a need to bridge the gap between public perception and the realities of geolocation-based campaigning. Educating the public about the actual uses and limitations of such data can lead to more informed discussions about its role in politics.
  4. Future Research: The study opens avenues for further research, especially in understanding the long-term impacts of data-driven campaigning on electoral outcomes and voter behavior.


Riedl, M. J., Tsyrenzhapova, D., Collier, J. R., Gursky, J., Joseff, K., & Woolley, S. (2023). The role of geolocation data in U.S. political campaigning: How digital political strategists perceive it. Convergence. 


BibTeX citation:
  author = {InfoEpi Lab},
  publisher = {Information Epidemiology Lab},
  title = {How {Political} {Strategists} {See} {Geolocation} {Data} and
  journal = {InfoEpi Lab},
  date = {2023-09-16},
  url = {},
  langid = {en}
For attribution, please cite this work as:
InfoEpi Lab. 2023. “How Political Strategists See Geolocation Data and Targeting.” InfoEpi Lab, September.