The GOP and voter mobilization

Racine, WI: I’ve been told that the Republican Party has conducted

more than 50 randomized experiments to test which methods and

messages most efficiently persuade people to vote. My organization,

CIRCLE, has also funded and collected such randomized

field tests, although we are a nonprofit organization, so we can

only test completely neutral, non-partisan messages ("Vote for

someone this fall").

In a true experiment, you don’t just ask people to vote, check whether

they do, and count each vote as a success. That would be a flawed methodology,

since many people would have voted even if you hadn’t asked them. Instead,

in a true experiment, you divide the population randomly into

two groups, ask one group to vote, and leave the other group alone.

Your success rate is the difference in turnout between the two groups.

CIRCLE-sponsored experiments have found that some strategies cause many

young people to vote; some are ineffective; and some promising approaches

actually reduce turnout. I find it fascinating that the GOP is now using

this method for their own planning purposes. It means, first of all,

that a sophisticated academic methodology seems valuable to hard-nosed

political operatives. And second, it means that Republicans are likely

to try to mobilize people through face-to-face contact in 2004. That

is a form of campaigning that increases participation (in contrast to

TV advertising, which is sometimes intended to reduce the opponent’s

turnout). Thus it is is a very beneficial development, although it would

be unfortunate if the Democrats failed to imitate the GOP.

Tuesday, Nov. 18

2 thoughts on “The GOP and voter mobilization

  1. Clayton Nall


    Have you been able to obtain copies of any of the Republican studies?


  2. Peter Levine

    No–as far as I know, all the partisan studies (both Democratic and Republican) are proprietary.

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