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Do get-out-the-vote calls reduce turnout? The importance of statistical methods for field experiments

  • Kosuke Imai
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    In their landmark study of a field experiment, Gerber and Green (2000) found that get-out-the-vote calls reduce turnout by five percentage points. In this article, I introduce statistical methods that can uncover discrepancies between experimental design and actual implementation. The application of this methodology shows that Gerber and Green's negative finding is caused by inadvertent deviations from their stated experimental protocol. The initial discovery led to revisions of the original data by the authors and retraction of the numerical results in their article. Analysis of their revised data, however, reveals new systematic patterns of implementation errors. Indeed, treatment assignments of the revised data appear to be even less randomized than before their corrections. To adjust for these problems, I employ a more appropriate statistical method and demonstrate that telephone canvassing increases turnout by five percentage points. This article demonstrates how statistical methods can find and correct complications of field experiments.

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    File URL: http://s3.amazonaws.com/fieldexperiments-papers/papers/00272.pdf
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    Paper provided by The Field Experiments Website in its series Natural Field Experiments with number 00272.

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    Date of creation: 2005
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    Handle: RePEc:feb:natura:00272
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.fieldexperiments.com

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    1. Kosuke Imai & David A. van Dyk, 2004. "Causal Inference With General Treatment Regimes: Generalizing the Propensity Score," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 99, pages 854-866, January.
    2. Alan Gerber & Donald Green, 2001. "Getting out the youth vote: Results from randomized field experiments," Natural Field Experiments 00260, The Field Experiments Website.
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