Selnow examines how emerging computer technologies advance the gathering and dissemination of political information and how the recent developments in hardware and software help technicians manage and manipulate complex voter databases. Gary W. Selnow considers the refinements of polling techniques that yield raw data for elaborate voter analyses and targeted information strategies and discusses how the new technologies contribute to the effective construction of political messages.
Selnow begins with a discussion of targeted communication and demonstrates the universal trend toward ever narrower audience contacts, explaining how media deliver small audiences and how computers help communicators understand these audiences in order to craft messages with individual appeal. Against this theoretical backdrop, he looks at public surveying techniques that provide audience surveillance data, databases that contain the political genetic material for each voter, and analytic methods that unfold an audience into its constituent parts. Finally, he examines the effects of these technologies on American voters, the press, and the political system. Leading journalists and media scholars offer their views on the subject, describing the problems and discussing their concerns about safeguards for privacy, maintenance of the American political system, and continuing press access to campaign information.