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The Persuasive Effects of Direct Mail: A Regression Discontinuity Approach

Author

Listed:
  • Alan Gerber
  • Daniel Kessler
  • Marc Meredith

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan Gerber & Daniel Kessler & Marc Meredith, 2008. "The Persuasive Effects of Direct Mail: A Regression Discontinuity Approach," NBER Working Papers 14206, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14206
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Stefano DellaVigna & Ethan Kaplan, 2007. "The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 1187-1234.
    2. Grossman, Gene M & Helpman, Elhanan, 1994. "Protection for Sale," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 833-850, September.
    3. 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.
    4. 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).
    5. repec:cup:apsrev:v:94:y:2000:i:03:p:653-663_22 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. 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 777-798, August.
    7. 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.
    8. 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 201-209, January.
    9. Matthew Gentzkow, 2006. "Television and Voter Turnout," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(3), pages 931-972.
    10. repec:cup:apsrev:v:92:y:1998:i:02:p:401-411_21 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. David P. Baron, 1989. "Service-Induced Campaign Contributions and the Electoral Equilibrium," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 104(1), pages 45-72.
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    Cited by:

    1. Priit Vahter & Jaan Masso, 2011. "The Link between Innovation and Productivity in Estonia???s Service Sectors," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series wp1012, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
    2. Mairesse, Jacques & Mohnen, Pierre, 2010. "Using Innovation Surveys for Econometric Analysis," Handbook of the Economics of Innovation, Elsevier.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General

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