Study: Text Messaging Can Boost Voter Turnout

Interesting findings from a new study of the use of text messaging to send day-before-election reminders to vote — 5% ain’t bad, and it sure was cheap ($1.56 per vote vs.$20-$70 for other methods). Conducted by the Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project, Working Assets and researchers from the University of Michigan and Princeton, the study looked at the effects of SMS GOTV reminders in the 2006 general election on a group of 4000 people selected at random from a pool of over 8000 new voters. Researchers checked polling records to see how many texters had voted and compared that with the control population. According to the actual paper, the 5% difference was statistically significant, and follow-up questioning of participants showed that positive responses far outweighed any backlash.

A couple of observations — as people sign up for more text notifications, they may not be as effective as in this example, and obviously we’ll want to see follow-up work on different populations. Still, it’s good to see some initial confirmation of the idea that text messaging is useful for building last-minute turnout. Note that campaigns and state parties may want to coordinate their text outreach, since people may recoil from receiving more than one go-vote-dammit message on their cell phones (a barrage of ten of them would suck). Let’s be careful not to poison the well before we’re finished drankin’ from it. Thanks to Mike Connery at Future Majority for the initial tip.


Written by
Colin Delany
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