What Gets Out the Vote?

Alan Krueger writes:

Door-to-door canvassing, though expensive, yields the most votes. As a rule of thumb, one additional vote is cast from each 14 people contacted. That works out to somewhere between $7 and $19 a vote, depending on the pay of canvassers – not much different from the cost of that three-pack of underwear. Canvassers who matched the ethnic profile of their assigned neighborhoods were more successful.

The effect of leaflets on turnout has not been evaluated as thoroughly as canvassing, but results from two partisan campaigns indicate that one vote was generated for every 66 leaflets hung on doors. In another experiment, just one vote was added for every 200 nonpartisan leaflets. Over all, leafletting costs $14 to $42 a vote. (A salutary aspect of the book is that one, two or three stars are placed next to the central findings to signify the degree of confidence the authors have in the results. This is only a one-star result.)

Direct mail is less cost-effective than leaflets. Mailing costs totaled around $60 for each additional vote cast. Telephone calling is also not highly effective, with the cost per vote ranging from $200 for heavily scripted calls to $45 for more personalized calls. Even worse, recorded messages and e-mail had no detectable impact on turnout.

Some candidates mail negative messages to their opponent’s supporters to discourage voting. Mailing a negative message depresses votes, but at a very low rate. The cost per vote diminished was about $300. (This is another one-star finding.)

Here is The New York Times link. The results are drawn from this Brookings book.


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