Social Pressure and Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment

Published on Feb 1, 2008in American Political Science Review3.895
· DOI :10.1017/S000305540808009X
S GerberAlan42
Estimated H-index: 42
(Yale University),
P GreenDonald63
Estimated H-index: 63
(Yale University),
W LarimerChristopher12
Estimated H-index: 12
(UNI: University of Northern Iowa)
Voter turnout theories based on rational self-interested behavior generally fail to predict significant turnout unless they account for the utility that citizens receive from performing their civic duty. We distinguish between two aspects of this type of utility, intrinsic satisfaction from behaving in accordance with a norm and extrinsic incentives to comply, and test the effects of priming intrinsic motives and applying varying degrees of extrinsic pressure. A large-scale field experiment involving several hundred thousand registered voters used a series of mailings to gauge these effects. Substantially higher turnout was observed among those who received mailings promising to publicize their turnout to their household or their neighbors. These findings demonstrate the profound importance of social pressure as an inducement to political participation.
Figures & Tables
  • References (63)
  • Citations (621)
📖 Papers frequently viewed together
1 Author (André Blais)
602 Citations
427 Citations
127 Citations
78% of Scinapse members use related papers. After signing in, all features are FREE.
#1Benjamin L. MillerH-Index: 1
#2Susan T. FiskeH-Index: 1
Tienda online donde Comprar Social Beings: A Core Motives Approach to Social Psychology al precio 47,63 € de Benjamin L. Miller | Susan T. Fiske, tienda de Libros de Medicina, Libros de Quimica - Quimica
228 Citations
Members of the same household share similar voting behaviors on average, but how much of this correlation can be attributed to the behavior of the other person in the household? Disentangling and isolating the unique effects of peer behavior, selection processes, and congruent interests is a challenge for all studies of interpersonal influence. This study proposes and utilizes a carefully designed placebo-controlled experimental protocol to overcome this identification problem. During a face-to-...
307 CitationsSource
#1Kevin Arceneaux (TU: Temple University)H-Index: 28
#2S GerberAlan (Yale University)H-Index: 42
Last. P GreenDonald (Yale University)H-Index: 63
view all 3 authors...
In the social sciences, randomized experimentation is the optimal research design for establishing causation. However, for a number of practical reasons, researchers are sometimes unable to conduct experiments and must rely on observational data. In an effort to develop estimators that can approximate experimental results using observational data, scholars have given increasing attention to matching. In this article, we test the performance of matching by gauging the success with which matching ...
93 CitationsSource
#1David W. Nickerson (ND: University of Notre Dame)H-Index: 22
Gerber and Green argue that get-out-the-vote phone calls do not increase turnout based upon field experiments testing nonpartisan professional phone banks. This article argues that the quality of the phone calls matter and that brief, nonpartisan phone calls can raise voter turnout if they are sufficiently personal. To test this hypothesis, a series of eight volunteer nonpartisan phone campaigns to mobilize voters were studied using randomized, controlled experiments. The campaigns targeted vote...
72 CitationsSource
This article presents the results of a randomized field experiment testing the effectiveness of three different identity-based appeals communicated via direct mail to registered Indian American voters in Queens County. The appeals made salient different identities: the voter as a U.S. citizen, a U.S. citizen and a person of color, or a U.S. citizen and an Indian American. The experiment informs the understanding of voter mobilization more generally and assists Indian American organizers in their...
24 CitationsSource
This study examines the get-out-the-vote (GOTV) and persuasion effects of partisan direct mail and phone calls on voter behavior. The conclusions are based on experimental field research from a 2002 state gubernatorial primary election. The study finds that neither partisan direct mail nor partisan phone calls, used independently or together, garner significant GOTV or persuasion effects. It also questions the common usage of self reported survey data as a means of evaluating the effectiveness o...
59 CitationsSource
In this article, I present a summary of the findings of a randomized field experiment of 465,134 registered Latino voters, the largest such experiment on Latinos to date. The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials’s (NALEO’s) Voces del Pueblo voter mobilization effort in 2002 explored three alternative modes of communicating with voters: direct mail, robotic phone calls, and live phone calls from volunteers. Of the three, only live phone calls produced a statistically sig...
88 CitationsSource
This study examines the effects of mobilization on political participation among Asian Americans. It focuses on whether telephone calls and mail increase voter turnout among Asian Americans who live in high-density Asian American areas in Los Angeles County. Prior to the November 5, 2002, elections, a randomized voter mobilization field experiment was conducted. Lists of registered Asian Americans (Chinese, Korean, Indian, Filipino, and Japanese) were randomly assigned to treatment and control g...
55 CitationsSource
Voter mobilization experiments are often conducted using individual-level randomization, which can be difficult to implement. A simpler approach is to randomly assign voting precincts, rather than individuals nested within them, to treatment and control groups. Not only is it easier and potentially less expensive to implement, it may allow researchers to study vote preference effects without collecting survey data. This article explores various methodological concerns that researchers should con...
63 CitationsSource
Latino political participation rates are consistently lower than those for other racial/ethnic groups. While some of the disparities can be attributed to low levels of Latino citizenship, socioeconomic status, and age, lack of mobilization by political parties and candidates also contributes to the problem. Field experiments in voter mobilization have found that personal canvassing can have a significant effect on turnout. This article reviews four experiments in Latino voter mobilization, condu...
51 CitationsSource
Cited By621
#2Mathieu Turgeon (UWO: University of Western Ontario)H-Index: 6
Abstract Compulsory voting is known for boosting electoral turnout, even when sanctions for abstaining are small or loosely enforced. Much less is known, however, about the consequences of compulsory voting on vote choice, and, in particular, about the quality of electoral decisions. In this paper, we explore the extent to which voters meaningfully engage in the electoral process or simply vote randomly because voting is required by law. We conducted a large online survey in Brazil during the 20...
Abstract Positive feedback about the outcome of volunteers’ prosocial actions is often thought to help motivate continued volunteers’ engagement. In the context of blood donations, various collection systems have begun to provide blood donors feedback on successful utilization of their blood donation. An experiment conducted by the main NGO that supports the collection of blood in Italy studies how such feedback affects subsequent blood donations. From a sample of over 8’000 blood donors, we fin...
Abstract We show that in the month prior to the 2003 Argentine presidential election, the expenditures of an Argentine poverty relief program exhibit a partisan bias. Taking into consideration the number of potential recipients (the unemployed with children 18 years old or less), the counties that were ideologically against the incumbent received a disproportionately large amount of the spending. Hence, instead of targeting swing or core districts, as established in the distributive politics lit...
#1Hanna BäckH-Index: 15
#2Emma A. RenströmH-Index: 1
Last. David SivénH-Index: 1
view all 3 authors...
#1Gemma Dipoppa (UPenn: University of Pennsylvania)H-Index: 1
#2Guy Grossman (UPenn: University of Pennsylvania)H-Index: 11
Does political engagement depend on government responsiveness? Identifying the drivers of political action is challenging because it requires disentangling instrumental from expressive motives for ...
#1Lisa García Bedolla (University of California, Berkeley)H-Index: 10
#2Andrea Silva (UNT: University of North Texas)H-Index: 1
Every electoral cycle, thousands of canvassers knock on doors to encourage strangers to vote. Many volunteers come from communities with low levels of participation. Scholars have yet to explore ho...
The effects of microtargeted digital advertisements intended to mobilize voters have the unique potential to spread within households through the sharing of devices. We conduct an analysis of cohab...
#1JohnPeterH-Index: 41
#2Toby BlumeH-Index: 1
view all 3 authors...
Research on pro-social behaviours has mainly concentrated on individually-tailored interventions, such as Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaigns, rather than collective arenas where information and mess...
#1Ilona Babenko (ASU: Arizona State University)H-Index: 9
#2Viktar Fedaseyeu (Bocconi University)H-Index: 4
Last. Song Zhang (BC: Boston College)H-Index: 1
view all 3 authors...
We analyze how the political preferences of CEOs affect their employees’ campaign contributions and electoral choices. Employees donate almost three times more money to CEO-supported political candidates than to candidates not supported by the CEO. This relation also holds around CEO departures, including plausibly exogenous departures due to death or retirement. CEO influence is strongest in firms that explicitly advocate for political candidates and firms with politically connected CEOs. Final...
1 CitationsSource