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Watch this: Stephen Colbert learns just how much data politicians have about him

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colbert issenberg (comedy central)
colbert issenberg (comedy central)

With Americans voting today in the most hotly-contested election since 2000, it’s no surprise that politicians are using complex math models to hypothesize about voter behavior. But what is surprising is that models exist for each of the country’s 170 million registered voters — models that use factors like age, wealth level, and geographic location to determine what individual voters are likely to do on election day, and with astonishingly high accuracy.

On Monday night’s Colbert Report, Slate contributor and author of The Victory Lab, Sasha Issenberg dropped by to explain how this kind of statistical analysis is performed and how the data can be used to get people to the polls. While the idea might seem benign (who cares if politicians know my income?) the same stores of data can also be used for less savory purposes like gerrymandering or "redistricting:" an exercise by political parties to manipulate voting district boundaries to ensure a political advantage. In any case, the video is worth a watch, if only for Colbert's indignation at the suggestion his household income is between $50 and $75 thousand dollars.

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