If you've ever wondered about those super-personalized emails you get from political campaigns, or been intrigued about just how those pollsters know which demographics are "breaking" for one candidate or the other, you may want to pick up journalist Sasha Issenberg's new book The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns (Crown, 2012). By reading and exploring decades worth of research in political science, behavorial analysis, sociology and other fields, and by interviewing the men and women behind the experiments, Issenberg digs deep into the tactics now used to run political campaigns.
For a political junkie, this makes for absolutely riveting reading. Those with a more casual interest in such things may easily get bogged down in numbers and minutiae, but I loved every page. Issenberg discusses the real-time experiments campaign consultants run to figure out exactly which mailers or emails or phone calls are working best, and the demographic slicing and dicing campaigns can now deploy in order to get the most bang for their buck. He even shares what studies have revealed to be the most effective "get out the vote" technique yet discovered: sending lists of peoples' own voting records along with those of their neighbors and suggesting that an updated list will be sent after the election (most campaigns don't use this one, since people don't actually seem to like it very much at all, for some reason ... ).
If you haven't had enough of politics yet this year, and want a crash course in how the game is played these days, grab this book and settle down.