How to get people to vote

by on October 24, 2008 at 8:21 am in Science | Permalink

KAHNEMAN: …there are
those effects that are small at the margin that can change election
results.

You call and ask people ahead of time, "Will you vote?". That’s all.
"Do you intend to vote?". That increases voting participation
substantially, and you can measure it. It’s a completely trivial
manipulation, but saying ‘Yes’ to a stranger, "I will vote" …

MYHRVOLD: But to Elon’s point, suppose you had the choice of calling up
and saying, "Are you going to vote?", so you prime them to vote, versus
exhorting them to vote.

KAHNEMAN: The prime could very well work better than the exhortation
because exhortation is going to induce resistance, whereas the primeā€š the mild embarrassment causes you to make what feels like a
commitment, and the commitment, if it’s sufficiently precise, is going
to have an effect on behavior.

THALER: If you ask them when they’re going to vote, and how they’re going to get there, that increases voting.

KAHNEMAN: And where.         

Here is the whole dialogue, on the importance of the environment and priming effects for human psychology; it is very interesting throughout.  I thank Stephen Morrow for the pointer.

So how do you get some people not to vote?

1 meter October 24, 2008 at 8:35 am

Rope and chains.

Or, field a decrepit and morally bankrupt candidate with a totally incompetent running mate. That might do it.

2 joe October 24, 2008 at 8:58 am

Exactly. This whole get out the vote thing annoys me to no end. I want less voting, not more. I assume that the marginal voter is less informed than the average voter, and thus by expanding the voter pool, the average voter becomes less and less informed. This is not a good thing.

3 JDM October 24, 2008 at 9:07 am

“That increases voting participation substantially, and you can measure it.”

What do the measurements say? What is a “substantial increase”?

4 gerry lindgren October 24, 2008 at 9:17 am

Lure them into a room with Bryan Caplan for an hour.

5 Jason Brennan October 24, 2008 at 9:19 am

I don’t know if publishing academic philosophy on duties not to vote is much help for that, but if it is, I’m doing my part.

6 Gavin Andresen October 24, 2008 at 9:37 am

I bet asking this question would make some people not vote:

“Would you be willing to stand in line for two hours on Tuesday before you vote?”

Or, perhaps:

“If people were paid to vote, how much do you think they should get paid?”

7 Anonymous October 24, 2008 at 10:12 am

he’s at least 60 IQ points above Palin.

Uh, not sure about that.

Biden’s always reminded me of the folks who finished in the bottom of my law school class and were big BSrs. And that is not a compliment to the good people of Delaware.

Obama reminds me of the slick talking BSrs who finished at the top of my law school class. And that’s not a compliment.

(I was a blue collar worker for more than a decade and finished in the top 15% of my law school class. And that’s not a compliment.)

McCain reminds me of the former fighter pilot in my law school class who went on to become a very good trial lawyer for a few years and then faded away. Just an observation.

Palin reminds me of a few women in my law school class who others underestimated to their later detriment. And that IS a compliment.

I like it when coastal elites underestimate the hicks from the sticks.

8 meter October 24, 2008 at 10:50 am

I’m not the kind of person who puts too much stock in educational (or any other) pedigree. I know understated intelligence when I see it – I’m not fooled by accents, mannerisms or the stereotypes that usually follow.

In short, you’re *dead wrong* on Palin. This woman is dangerously incompetent and most Americans know it. Not to mention she’s dishonest and corrupt, if that sort of thing matters to you.

9 Nathan Whitehead October 24, 2008 at 12:30 pm

Ask them:
“Do they check for unpaid parking tickets and other city fines when you vote?”

“If you have a warrant for your arrest, do they pass along your name to the police when you sign in at the polling location?”

“Employers can currently dock the pay or assign extra work to citizens who take time off to vote. Do you think this should be disallowed?”

“How much do you pay for parking at the voting location? Do you normally have trouble finding cheap parking during big events?”

10 Acton. October 24, 2008 at 1:16 pm

If only this worked for the politicians we’re supposed to vote for.

“Mr Obama, do you intend to cut wasteful spending?”

11 Anonymous October 24, 2008 at 1:25 pm

dishonest and corrupt

that describes politicians generally.

Anyone who believes the description only applies to members of the “other” party is either naive or an ideologue.

12 Jason Brennan October 24, 2008 at 1:34 pm

We also want to make a distinction between people who are informed enough to know what candidates stand for, and people who are informed enough to be able to successfully evaluate whether the candidates’ proposed policies will in fact tend to promote their proposed ends.

13 BoscoH October 24, 2008 at 2:13 pm

Everything I need to know, I learned from Cialdini. Oh, and don’t forget “Vote or Die” (South Park version). They totally covered this one.

14 Edward O'Connor October 24, 2008 at 2:33 pm

With apologies to Dave Barry, the one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status, or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we all believe that we are above-average voters. I don’t think Caplam-esque arguments against ignorant and/or irrational voting will actually have an effect, because anyone who understands his argument will consider themselves to be outside of the set of potential voters who should not vote.

I’m more interested in arguments against voting that apply to everyone, regardless of their intelligence or understanding of political economy. Why shouldn’t *you* vote, Tyler?

15 Mr. Beefy October 24, 2008 at 3:10 pm

I vote early and often for whomever my machine advises. :).

16 Superheater October 24, 2008 at 4:04 pm

Biden’s made some poor statements in his career, but he’s at least 60 IQ points above Palin. I’ll stick with the smart guy who is conversant on more than one issue (drilling oil).

You think so, why?

Based on what?

Saturday Night Live parodies are not sufficient evidence.

Biden has been wrong on every major policy issue that has arisen in
his interminably long Senate career. He sticks his foot in his mouth with
amazing regularity. He was so smart he plagiarized former British Labor
Party leader Neil Kinnock and got caught.

I have a friend that describes “experience” as having “screwed up”.
On that basis, Biden should be running for supreme leader, not VP.

17 Laserlight October 24, 2008 at 4:33 pm

>I’ll stick with the smart guy who is conversant on more than one issue

BSing on more than one issue does not make him competent on those issues, as demonstrated by his frequent significant factual errors.
I’m not arguing that Palin is qualified. I’d be willing to argue that she’s more qualified than any of the other three candidates, except that’s just too depressing to contemplate.
I’m praying that when I wake up on 5Nov, the headlines will be somethng like “Election Shock: Zell Miller Wins!”

18 Anonymous October 24, 2008 at 6:14 pm

Correctly answering a brief quiz given to each voter outlining the candidates’ stances on key issues ought to be a requirement to vote. Voters, conscious of this policy, will either familiarize themselves with the candidates or stay home knowing that their vote will not be counted.

19 Patrick October 24, 2008 at 7:32 pm

In Australia they fine anyone who doesn’t vote 50$. They have voter turnout over 90%

How about adding an additional fine for anyone who can’t successfully answer simple questions on material contained in the platforms? Would it increase voter awareness?

20 G'day October 24, 2008 at 8:43 pm

In addition to being fined if I don’t vote in Australia, I have never once had to wait to vote. I walk in, get my name crossed off the roll, vote and walk out. We vote on a Saturday when most people don’t have work and we make it fairly easy to absentee vote or vote early if you are busy. Another advantage we have is that we don’t use any mechanical or electronic voting machines. We just use paper and pencil across the whole country.

21 Dave Barnes October 25, 2008 at 1:27 am

Whatever happened to precinct captains buying a shot of whiskey for voters?
I voted by mail yesterday and am still waiting for my free shot.
Damn McCain-Feingold and so-called reforms.
I want my free booze.

22 Nichlemn October 25, 2008 at 9:13 am

Ask someone why they’re voting for their preferred candidate. There’s a good chance their answer will be along the lines of “his policies will help the country.” Ask them how they know this. Ask them if they can cite a sources that explains how their candidate’s policies are clearly empirically better. Mostlikely, they won’t be able to, or if they do, it’s almost certainly not convincing. If their reasoning boils down to a value judgment, ask them if they think it’s right to try to inflict their personal values on everyone else.

An indirect method is discouraging people who volunteer. Ask them all the above questions, only you can focus harder on the values one because you can no longer rebut that democracy is about everyone having their vote on what values they’d like. It’s extended to them spending precious time actively trying to influence *other* voters.

Or how about an appeal to utilitarianism if they talk about the “collective good”? Ask them if they think the world would be be better off if they spent all the time they did voting, or they worked an hour overtime and donated that money to starving children.

23 obama for hallowe'en October 27, 2008 at 4:01 pm

When you ask people if they’re gonna vote, wear this:
http://pageslap.wordpress.com/2008/10/26/how-to-be-barack-obama-for-halloween/

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