Using Your Social Influence to Boost Voter Turnout

If this were a normal election year, we would be knocking on doors to help turn out your communities to vote. But this is nothing like a “normal” election year.

This article is by Kate Scully, MoveOn’s Mobilizations Director.

MoveOn’s newe strategy is called “Vote Tripling.” It relies on research that shows that “social influence”—encouragement and accountability from your family and friends—is the best way to increase voter turnout, particularly among voters aged 30 and under. Studies have found that if you know that your close friends and family are voting and if those people follow up with you about your plans to vote, you are far more likely to actually cast a ballot than if you receive a call from a volunteer or even a knock at the door from a canvasser.

Research shows that voter turnout increased by more than 10% in voters under 30 who received this type of social influence. To put that in context: That’s five times more effective than phone banking and canvassing, which increase turnout by about 2%.

Make no mistake: This plan TERRIFIES Donald Trump. He even said so earlier this year!

Back in March, as Democrats in Congress pushed to protect access to voting during the pandemic, Trump went on Fox News to rail against increasing turnout, saying, “They had things [in the bill]—levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

Learning that close friends vote increases turnout. Facebook users (n=61m) were randomized to receive one of two messages in their news The “social message” group received a statement that encouraged them to vote, allowed them to click an “I Voted” button, and displayed six profile pictures of their Facebook friends who had clicked the “I Voted” button. The “informational message group” was shown the same statement and button, but they were not able to see the faces of their friends. Users in the “informational message group” voted at the exact rate of users in the control. But, users who saw pictures of friends voted at 0.39 percentage points higher rates. However, this effect was driven by close friends. People who saw images of one of their 10 closest friends were 1.8 percentage points more likely to vote, while those who saw images of ordinary friends voted at the same rate as those in the control. This study illustrates that turnout increases when people learn their close friends are voting (Bond et al, 2012). 

Can you chip in $5 a month to help MoveOn get this game-changing program off the ground and keep it running in 10 of the most important swing states to defeat Trump and the GOP in November?

Yes, I’ll chip in monthly.

2. The more social pressure a person is subjected to, the more likely they are to vote. Households (n=80,000) were sent one of various mailings encouraging them to vote prior to the August 2006 primary election in households that received a mailing informing them that their voting behavior was being studied were 2.5 percentage points more likely to vote, households shown their own voting records and told they would receive an updated chart following the election were 4.9 percentage points more likely to vote, and households shown both their records and those of their neighbors and told they would receive an updated chart after the primary were 8.1 percentage points more likely to vote. This study demonstrates the more social pressure a person is subjected to, the more likely they are to vote (Gerber et al, 2008).

3. Encouraging someone to vote increases their housemate’s likelihood of turning out. In the 2002 Congressional primary elections, households (n=468) with two registered voters received a “Get Out The Vote” treatment in which canvassers delivered a face-to-face voting appeal to only one member of each Compared to the control group which received no voting encouragement, the treatment group observed an 8 percentage point increase in voter turnout. Further, the member of the household who did not directly interact with a canvasser was 5.8 percentage points more likely to vote. Researchers attribute this boost in turnout to behavioral contagion and conclude that interpersonal influence affects the voting behavior of people who live together (Nickerson, 2008).

Click to keep reading…

Leave a Reply