An Experiment Testing the Relative Effectiveness of Encouraging Voter Participation by Inducing Feelings of Pride or Shame
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- Gerber, A.S., Green, D.P. & Larimer, C.W. Polit Behav (2010) 32: 409. doi:10.1007/s11109-010-9110-4
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Prior experimental research has demonstrated that voter turnout rises substantially when people receive mailings that indicate whether they voted in previous elections. This effect suggests that voters are sensitive to whether their compliance with the norm of voting is being monitored. The present study extends this line of research by investigating whether disclosure of past participation has a stronger effect on turnout when it calls attention to a past abstention or a past vote. A sample of 369,211 registered voters who voted in just one of two recent elections were randomly assigned to receive no mail, mail that encouraged them to vote, and mail that both encouraged them to vote and indicated their turnout in one previous election. The latter type of mailing randomly reported either the election in which they voted or the one in which they abstained. Results suggest that mailings disclosing past voting behavior had strong effects on voter turnout and that these effects were significantly enhanced when it disclosed an abstention in a recent election.