Major political data firm shuts door on Republicans

A voter casts his ballot in a vote center at L.A.'s Pantages Theatre, Oct. 31, 2020. (Photo: Ringo Chiu, via Shutterstock)

Democrats, who already enjoy an overwhelming lead in California voter registration, now have one more advantage over the state’s beleaguered Republicans.

Political Data Inc., a prominent California company that has supplied campaign data to Democratic and Republican contenders alike for three decades, announced recently it will henceforth only work for “progressives” and Democrats.

PDI is as well known in the political community as it is little known to the general public, and in the ferocious world of political campaigning, its Feb. 25 announcement caught the Capitol by surprise.

The move, however, apparently had been contemplated for some time.

“It’s something we’ve been thinking about for years,” said Paul Mitchell, vice president of PDI.

California Democrats have a huge advantage in voter registration.

The secretary of state’s office reports that as of Oct. 20, Democrats had 10,170,317 registered voters in California, or 46.1% of the total; Republicans had 5,334,323 registrants, or 24.2%. The Republicans narrowly eclipsed the 5,283,253 registrants who did not report a party affiliation.

Information on where Democratic or Republican voters are located, what they’re concerned about and their likelihood of going to the polls are among the vital factors considered by those who manage campaigns for candidates and causes. The data often includes such things as detailed profiles of ethnicity, income levels, past voting preferences, and geographic targeting of ZIP code and precinct areas. Without such information, campaigns may be wandering in a political wilderness.

At first glance, Political Data’s move appears to be classic inside politics. But to the degree that data drive campaign decisions, and campaign outcomes influence the day-to-day lives of Californians, the Democrats-only decision could be widely, if indirectly, felt.

Mitchell said stand-alone political data firms “are kind of outmoded.” It is becoming increasingly necessary to partner with technology companies to be effective, he said, and they are becoming more and more run by Democrats.

“It was a business decision, but ideologically, if pushed to choose, this is the way we went,” Mitchell said. “It’s going to be a challenge for Republicans.”

“I’m delighted by that decision,” said Garry South, a Los Angeles-based Democratic political consultant. “They made exactly the right decision. If Republicans and far-right conspiracy-mongers want to collect voter information, they can now damn well find another firm.”

“It is a sad sign of the times that so-called progressives could not allow a great company that for decades had served the needs of candidates of all political persuasions to continue to exist,” said Republican consultant Dave Gilliard, president of Gilliard Blanning & Associates of Rocklin.

Mitchell told Capitol Weekly that a Republican colleague, upon hearing the news that Political Data was going to work exclusively for Democrats, waxed philosophical.

“Well, that’s where the business is,” Mitchell reported him as saying.

Editor’s Note: Paul Mitchell has been associated with Capitol Weekly for years, providing analyses and comments on elections. His latest appearance on our podcast can be heard here, in which he discusses issues related to this story.


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