Will ‘Telling On Your Neighbors’ Get Them to Vote?

The American Political Science Review‘s Feb. 2008 issue has a new study by Alan Gerber, Donald Green, and Christopher Larimer testing the accuracy of voter turnout theories based on “rational self-interested behavior.” The researchers sought to “distinguish between two aspects of this type of utility, intrinsic satisfaction from behaving in accordance with a norm and extrinsic incentives to comply.” To accomplish this, they sent out a series of mailings to several hundred thousand registered voters. One in particular led to a whopping 8.1 percent increase in voter turnout. What were its contents? It told whether recipients and their neighbors had voted in past elections, and promised to send an updated list after the upcoming election.

(Hat tip: Jeffrey Gordon)

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  1. Patrick says:

    Assuming of course that increased voter turnout is indubitably good, an inherently normative question.

    I don’t think that that the people who constitute that 8.1% will necessarily be the most informed voters.

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  2. Jeffrey Gordon says:

    Patrick said:
    “I don’t think that that the people who constitute that 8.1% will necessarily be the most informed voters.”

    That’s sort of not the point. The point is that one political party could do this. Sending those letters out to only registered Democrats would, presumably, raise Dem turnout by that whopping 8.1% while leaving Republican turnout untouched.

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  3. Kevin says:

    http://apnews.myway.com/article/20080313/D8VCKBH80.html

    “No One Votes in Florida Election”

    I guess one vote could make a difference…

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