Analysis

Personal Contact Helps Mobilize Low-participation Populations to Vote

Mobilizing voters who don’t typically turn out to vote is difficult. It is well documented that voting is habit forming, and those who have not developed the inclination are unlikely to cast a ballot. But election administrators and political campaigns have new research to guide their efforts to activate these voters.

Field experiments demonstrate that low-participation groups can be mobilized by personal contact on the phone or in face-to-face conversations, especially if the interaction is repeated before the election.  Such efforts also have spillover effects, increasing the participation of other eligible voters in the same household by up to 60 percent.

One of the challenges to mobilization is that most voter registration activity takes place right before the deadline, meaning most new registrants are added to official lists just prior to Election Day. This timing makes it extremely difficult for campaigns and engagement groups to identify and contact new or unlikely voters in advance of the election. As states increasingly join in projects such as the Electronic Registration Information Center that register new voters and update the registrations of those who have moved throughout the year, election administrators, nonprofits, and campaigns will have more time for multiple personal contacts with low-participation populations.

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Fred Baldassaro

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