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The Persuasive Effects of Direct Mail: A Regression Discontinuity Approach

  • Alan Gerber
  • Daniel Kessler
  • Marc Meredith
Registered author(s):

    During the contest for Kansas attorney general in 2006, an organization sent out 6 pieces of mail criticizing the incumbent's conduct in office. We exploit a discontinuity in the rule used to select which households received the mailings to identify the causal effect of mail on vote choice and voter turnout. We find these mailings had both a statistically and politically significant effect on the challenger's vote share. Our estimates suggest that a ten percentage point increase in the amount of mail sent to a precinct increased the challenger's vote share by approximately three percentage points. Furthermore, our results suggest that the mechanism for this increase was persuasion rather than mobilization.

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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14206.pdf
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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14206.

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    Date of creation: Jul 2008
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    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14206
    Note: PE POL
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    Web page: http://www.nber.org
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    1. Grossman, G.M. & Helpman, E., 1992. "Protection for Sale," Papers 21-92, Tel Aviv.
    2. Levitt, Steven D, 1994. "Using Repeat Challengers to Estimate the Effect of Campaign Spending on Election Outcomes in the U.S. House," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(4), pages 777-98, August.
    3. DellaVigna, Stefano & Kaplan, Ethan, 2006. "The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting," Seminar Papers 748, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
    4. Matthew Gentzkow, 2006. "Television and Voter Turnout," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(3), pages 931-972, 08.
    5. Stephen Ansolabehere & John M. de Figueiredo & James M. Snyder Jr, 2003. "Why is There so Little Money in U.S. Politics?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(1), pages 105-130, Winter.
    6. Hahn, Jinyong & Todd, Petra & Van der Klaauw, Wilbert, 2001. "Identification and Estimation of Treatment Effects with a Regression-Discontinuity Design," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(1), pages 201-09, January.
    7. David S. Lee, 2001. "The Electoral Advantage to Incumbency and Voters' Valuation of Politicians' Experience: A Regression Discontinuity Analysis of Elections to the U.S..," NBER Working Papers 8441, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Ferraz, Claudio & Finan, Frederico S., 2008. "Motivating Politicians: The Impacts of Monetary Incentives on Quality and Performance," IZA Discussion Papers 3411, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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