Nov 01, 2010

Getting Out the Vote, Innovatively

A fascinating article in the Sunday magazine of The New York Times describes how techniques developed by behavioral science researchers are at the forefront of a dramatic change in how politicians and parties get out the vote. The emerging data-driven approach to moving voters was co-pioneered by Don Green, currently Visiting Distinguished Professor at NYU Wagner & NYU Abu Dhabi.

"As the 1998 elections approached, Green [and fellow Yale professor of political science Alan Gerber] partnered with the League of Women Voters to split 30,000 New Haven voters into four groups," the article explains. "Some received an oversize postcard encouraging them to vote, others the same message via a phone call or in-person visit. One control group received no contact whatsoever. After the election, Gerber and Green examined Connecticut records to see who actually voted. The in-person canvass yielded turnout 9.8 percent higher than for voters who were not contacted. Each piece of mail led to a turnout increase of only 0.6 percent. Telephone calls, Gerber and Green concluded, had no effect at all."

The Times article goes on to describe why the results have proven so seminal.

As it happens, the article appeared just a few days after Professor Green spoke at Wagner's doctoral colloquium October 28.

Green has written extensively on a range of topics, including voter turnout, campaign finance, perceptual bias, rational learning, experimental methods, and rational choice theory. He is currently writing a book on field experiments in the social sciences. His resume and other materials can be found here.


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