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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

GOTV strategy scale of effectiveness

Quite a week for GOTV info. Last Friday, I wrote about the examination of GOTV in San Francisco's 2003 mayors race by political guru Jim Ross. Sunday, Chris Nolan also commented on this must-read GOTV article.

Now, I've learned through the Political Wire of a Campaigns and Elections review of Get Out the Vote! How to Increase Voter Turnout, by Donald P. Green and Alan S. Gerber.

C&E notes:
Phones: The gold standard of GOTV has always been phoning. But experiments showed that short GOTV scripts by commercial phone banks had almost no impact on turnout.

In experiments involving volunteer phone banks or closely supervised phoning using longer and more interactive scripts, the phone calls raised turnout about 3 percentage points, sometimes more.

Robo-calls: Several robo-call experiments produced no discernable impact on voter turnout, compared with the control group that received none of the calls.

Mail: The results of Gerber and GreenĂ‚’s test of both partisan and non-partisan tests on direct mail were not impressive. Direct mail containing non-partisan GOTV messages raised turnout about half percentage point for each piece of mail sent. Partisan direct mail, which advocated a candidate, had a smaller impact, although the mail did raise turnout about a half percentage point per mailer among frequent primary voters of the same party.

E-mails: In a major youth vote e-mail campaign conducted with almost 350,000 college students in nine states, the e-mails affected neither voter registration nor the voter turnout.

Door hangers: One experiment with Michigan Democrats in the 2002 general election campaign indicated door hangers were surprisingly cost-effective. They increased turnout by 1 percentage point.

Door-to-door canvass: The gold standard for GOTV turned out to be the door-to-door canvass. Door-to-door canvassing, which is expensive both in terms of time and money, produced turnout increases of 7 to 12 percentage points.

Chris Nolan was right, "It's not rocket science. It's hard work."

Hype doesn't get people to the polls. Email may be good for "spam organizing" events, but is doesn't seem to make occasional voters vote. Robo-calls may be cheap per contact, but you get what you pay for. Mail can still turn a close race.

To change the turnout, it takes effective volunteer management to get supporters personally connecting. It is expensive and time-intensive. But it in sharply divided districts, supporter turnout can be more critical than voter persuasion. Walking precincts works.

- Bob Brigham
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