Text Messaging To Increase Voter Turnout by Brad Chism

By at August 15, 2012 | 1:54 pm | Print

Text Messaging To Increase Voter Turnout by Brad Chism

Text Messaging To Increase Voter Turnout by Brad Chism

Text messaging is cheap but is it effective in increasing voter turnout? The answer depends on the profile of the election (off year local elections vs. statewide primary elections) and the audience (occasional voters vs. high frequency voters). A 2011 study based on two elections in San Mateo, CA measured the results of texts to different types of voters.

The first test occurred in a low turnout local election in November, 2009. The study determined that turnout among high frequency voters increased by 16.2% as a result of a simple text which read “A friendly reminder that TOMORROW is Election Day. Democracy depends on citizens like you—so please vote!”  But this text message did very little to boost the turnout of people who only voted in presidential elections.

The second test occurred in a series of high profile June, 2010 primaries for statewide office that also featured 5 statewide ballot measures. Turnout was more than twice as high as the election seven months earlier. A cross section of voters got the same text message as before. However, here the study showed very little impact with high frequency voters. Instead, the less frequent voters showed a 2.3% boost in turnout.

Simply stated text messages to casual voters in high turnout elections can get them “over the hump” to go vote. But texting to very frequent voters isn’t justified—the money spent doesn’t produce a significant boost since they were much more likely to turnout anyway.

In special elections and other low saliency elections, texting helps to get the very frequent voters “over the hump” but is not enough to get the casual voter off the couch.

Click here to read the entire study of the San Mateo elections as found in the American Politics Research.

Brad Chism, Partner and Senior Strategist of Zata|3 Consulting. Zata|3 helps elect Democrats and advance progressive causes by integrating telephone voter contact programs with a campaign’s other messaging. Zata|3 offers a full range of automated and live calling programs, from the initial ID call to the final GOTV message. Other services to reach your targeted voters include: SMS (text) messaging, Zata|Forum™ Telephone Town Halls, Zata|Pulse® Interactive Automated Surveys, and, coming soon, web-based Zata|Live™ Video Forum Town Halls.

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