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Partisan mail and voter turnout: Results from randomized field experiments

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  • Alan Gerber
  • Donald Green
  • Matthew Green

Abstract

Political campaigns currently make extensive use of direct mail, particularly in state and local races, yet its effects on voter behavior are not well understood. This essay presents the results of large-scale randomized field experiments conducted in Connecticut and New Jersey during state and municipal elections of 1999. Tens of thousands of registered voters were sent from zero to nine pieces of direct mail. The target populations included party registrants with a strong history of voter participation, independents, and a random subset of registered voters. Our results indicate partisan campaign mail does little to stimulate voter turnout and may even dampen it when the mail is negative in tone.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan Gerber & Donald Green & Matthew Green, 2003. "Partisan mail and voter turnout: Results from randomized field experiments," Natural Field Experiments 00250, The Field Experiments Website.
  • Handle: RePEc:feb:natura:00250
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    1. Cox, Gary W. & Munger, Michael C., 1989. "Closeness, Expenditures, and Turnout in the 1982 U.S. House Elections," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 83(1), pages 217-231, March.
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    1. Saarimaa, Tuukka & Tukiainen, Janne, 2016. "Local representation and strategic voting: Evidence from electoral boundary reforms," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 31-45.
    2. Katharina E. Hofer, 2017. "Partisan Campaigning and Initiative Petition Signing in Direct Democracies," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics, Springer;Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics, vol. 153(3), pages 261-291, July.
    3. Lyytikäinen, Teemu & Tukiainen, Janne, 2019. "Are voters rational?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 230-242.
    4. Franziska Marquart & Andreas C Goldberg & Claes H de Vreese, 2020. "‘This time I’m (not) voting’: A comprehensive overview of campaign factors influencing turnout at European Parliament elections," European Union Politics, , vol. 21(4), pages 680-705, December.
    5. Saarimaa, Tuukka & Tukiainen, Janne, 2016. "Local representation and strategic voting: Evidence from electoral boundary reforms," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 31-45.
    6. Enrico Cantoni & Vincent Pons, 2020. "Do Interactions with Candidates Increase Voter Support and Participation? Experimental Evidence from Italy," NBER Working Papers 27433, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Lisa M. George & Joel Waldfogel, 2006. "The New York Times and the Market for Local Newspapers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 435-447, March.

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