Are Voters Mobilized by a ‘Friend-and-Neighbor’ on the Ballot? Evidence from a Field Experiment
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In his seminal work on Southern politics, V.O. Key observed that voters disproportionately support local candidates at the ballot box. While empirical analyses have confirmed “friends-and-neighbors” voting across numerous electoral contexts, no one has directly examined voter turnout as the mechanism linking place of residence to vote choice. We argue that place of residence is a social identity that incentivizes citizens to turn out to vote on behalf of the local candidate. We test this mobilization mechanism using a randomized field experiment conducted during a 2014 state legislative primary election. Our results show that county ties between candidates and voters likely boost turnout. Our findings contribute to our understanding of the importance of place identity for turnout decisions in low-information elections.
Keywords“Friends-and-neighbors” voting Localism Turnout Social identity Field experiments
We thank Marc Meredith, Donald Green and conference participants at MPSA 2015 for helpful comments on earlier drafts. We are also grateful to Maryann Draine and Diane Packer for providing us with validated voter turnout data and to Meagan Snow for research assistance. This study was approved by the Office of the Institutional Review Board at Fordham University (ID: IRB-14-08-CP-010). Brian Hamel acknowledges the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program for support. Replication data can be found at https://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataverse/polbehavior.
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