Voter Mobilization, Experimentation, and Translational Social Science


Donald P. Green and Alan S. Gerber

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Green, Donald P. and Alan S. Gerber (2016). Voter Mobilization, Experimentation, and Translational Social Science. Perspectives on Politics 14(3):738-749. DOI:
Field experiments on voter mobilization enable researchers to test theoretical propositions while at the same time addressing practical questions that confront campaigns. This confluence of interests has led to increasing collaboration between researchers and campaign organizations, which in turn has produced a rapid accumulation of experiments on voting. This new evidence base makes possible translational works such as Get Out the Vote: How to Increase Voter Turnout that synthesize the burgeoning research literature and convey its conclusions to campaign practitioners. However, as political groups develop their own in-house capacity to conduct experiments whose results remain proprietary and may be reported selectively, the accumulation of an unbiased, public knowledge base is threatened. We discuss these challenges and the ways in which research that focuses on practical concerns may nonetheless speak to enduring theoretical questions.
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