Increasing Voter Turnout: Lessons from Social Science Research by Zata|3

By at July 19, 2012 | 3:36 pm | Print

Increasing Voter Turnout: Lessons from Social Science Research by Zata|3

Decades of research have produced a large volume of information on voting behavior in this country.  In the last few years we’ve seen this mountain of research grow even higher with a series of groundbreaking studies by social scientists on why people vote. We’ve reviewed the literature compiled by experts in America’s leading universities in an effort to better understand what motivates people to vote.  The points laid out below are a distillation of thousands of hours of independent research and hundreds of pages of research reports by many of the brightest minds in academia.

Our recap of their findings comes from a practitioner’s perspective—we are in the GOTV business and are convinced these are valuable insights that can help our clients improve voter turnout.  We’ve provided references to original research for a detailed explanation of how the scientists arrived at each conclusion.

            People are more likely to vote after they have promised someone else that they will vote.i This tactic works better for the occasional voters than for those who consistently vote or who are infrequent voters.ii

            People are more likely to vote if they self-predict that they will vote and are then given a follow up question asking why they think they should vote. iii

            People are more likely to vote after they are reminded they are good citizens who regularly vote.iv This tactic works better the more it is true (the more frequent the voter they are).v

            People are more likely to vote after they report over the phone their intention to vote and are then called back with a reminder.

            People are more likely to vote after hearing over the phone that we know their recent vote history. This tactic works better in high profile

            People are more likely to vote after hearing a message emphasizing high expected turnout rather than low expected turnout.vii

            People are more likely to vote after a phone conversation where they walk through their plan to vote on Election Day.viii

            People are more likely to vote if they go through an exercise over the phone in which they picture themselves voting from a third person perspective.ixThis tactic works better with people who see themselves as the kind of people who vote than those who don’t see themselves as the kind of people who vote.x

            People are more likely to vote if they are reminded/convinced that they are part of a group whose fortunes are impacted on Election Day.xi This tactic works better with moderate voter frequency and has less impact with “super voters” or those who seldom or never vote.xii

            People are more likely to vote if they first agree to relatively smaller request prior to Election Day (“foot-in-the-door” technique).xiii

originally posted Elect

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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i Sherman, S.J. (1980).  On the self-erasing nature of errors of prediction.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39.

ii Greenwald, A.G., Klinger, M.R., Vande Kamp, M.E., and Kerr, K.L. (1988). The self prophesy effect: Increasing voter turnout by vanity assisted consciousness raising.  University of Washington.

iii Greenwald, A.G., Carnot, C.G., Beach, R., and Young, B. (1987). Increasing voting-behavior by asking people if they intend to vote.  Journal of Applied Psychology, 72, 2.

iv Turner, J.C., Hogg, M.A., Oakes, P.J., Reicher, S.D., and Wetherell, M. (1987).  Rediscovering the Social Group: A Self-Categorization Theory.  Oxford, England, Basil Blackwell.

v Swann, W.B, and Read, S.J. (1981).  Self-verification processes: How we sustain our self-conceptions.  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 17.

vi Lijphart, A. (1997). Unequal participation: Democracy’s unresolved dilemma.  American Political Science Review, 91, 9.

vii Gerber, A.S., and Roger, T. (2009) Descriptive social norms and motivation to vote: Everybody’s voting and so should you.  Journal of Politics, 71, 1.

viii Gollwitzer, P.M., and Sheeran, P. (2006).  Implementation intentions: Strong effects of simple plans. American Psychologist, 54.

ix Libby,L.K., Eibach, R.P., and Gilovich, T. (2005).  He’s looking at me: the effects of memory perspective on assessments of personal change.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 1.

x Green, D.P. and Gerber, A.S. (2008).  Get Out the Vote! Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.

xi Fowler, J.H. and Kam, C.D. (2007). Beyond the self: social identity, altruism, and political participation.  Journal of Politics, 69, 3.

xii Smith, J.K., Gerber, A.S., and Orlich, A. (2003) Self-Prophesy Effects and Voter Turnout: An Experimental Replication. Political Psychology, 24 (3).

xiii Burger, J.M. et. al (2004).  The Foot-in-the-Door Compliance Procedure: A Multiple-Process Analysis and Review.  Personality and Social
Psychology Review, 3 (4).

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