Is There Backlash to Social Pressure? A Large-scale Field Experiment on Voter Mobilization
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Using social pressure to mobilize voters has generated impressive increases in turnout (Gerber et al. Am Polit Sci Rev 102:33–48, 2008). However, voters may have negative reactions to social pressure treatments that reduce their effectiveness. Social psychologists have observed this ‘reactance’ to persuasive pressure about other behavior, but it has been overlooked in voter mobilization. Using a large-scale field experiment, we find treatments designed to reduce reactance are just as effective as heavy-handed social pressure treatments in mobilizing voters. The success of gentler social pressure treatments should make the use of social pressure more palatable to voter mobilization organizations.
KeywordsVoting Voter mobilization Field experiment Social pressure Reactance
I would like to thank the anonymous organization that conducted this social pressure voter mobilization program for sharing these data. The assistance of Donald Green and Alan Gerber was invaluable at many steps in this project. I would also like to thank the editors, three anonymous reviewers, Paula Cooper, Avi Feller, Matthew Green, Casey Klofstad, Joanna Johnson, April Mann, Todd Rogers, and the participants in the Analyst Institute in Washington, DC for their feedback.
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