The Role of Call Quality in Voter Mobilization: Implications for Electoral Outcomes and Experimental Design
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We demonstrate the centrality of high quality personal interactions for successfully overcoming the collective action problem of voter mobilization, and highlight the need for attention to treatment quality before making substantive inferences from field experiments. We exploit natural variation in the quality of voter mobilization phone calls across call centers to examine how call quality affects voter mobilization in a large-scale field experiment conducted during the 2010 Election. High quality calls (from call centers specializing in calling related to politics) produced significant increases in turnout. In contrast, low quality calls (from multi-purpose commercial call centers) failed to increase turnout. Furthermore, we offer caution about using higher contact rates as an indication of delivery quality. Our treatment conditions with higher contact rates had no impact on turnout, suggesting an unfavorable trade-off between quantity of contacts and call quality.
KeywordsField experiment Voter mobilization Causal inference Experimental design Mobilization calls House effects
We thank our partner organization for the support that made this research possible. We thank the editors, anonymous reviewers, Stephen Ansolabehere, Donald Green, John Love, Frank Sansom, Brian Shaffner, and the participants in the Political Science Faculty Colloquium at the University of Miami for their helpful comments. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2012 Midwest Political Science Association Conference. This research was conducted under University of Miami Human Subjects Research Office Protocol #20110124. Replication data is available at http://www.sites.google.com/site/christopherbmann. All errors are the responsibility of the authors.
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