Gerber, Alan S., Gregory A. Huber, Albert H. Fang, Andrew Gooch (2017). The Generalizability of Social Pressure Effects on Turnout Across High-Salience Electoral Contexts. American Politics Research. First published date: January-13-2017. DOI: 10.1177/1532673X16686556
Prior experiments show that campaign communications revealing subjects’ past turnout and applying social pressure to vote (the “Self” treatment) increase turnout. However, nearly all existing studies are conducted in low-salience elections, raising concerns that published findings are not generalizable and are an artifact of sample selection and publication bias. Addressing the need for further replication in high-salience elections, we analyze a field experiment involving 1.96 million subjects where a nonpartisan campaign randomly sent Self treatment mailers, containing a subject’s vote history and a comparison of each subject’s history with their state median registrant’s turnout behavior, in high-salience elections across 17 states in 2014. Sending the Self mailer increases turnout by 0.7 points or 2.2%. This effect is largely consistent across states, with somewhat larger effects observed in states with lower ex ante election salience. Our study provides precise evidence that social pressure effects on turnout are generalizable.
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