Unresponsive and Unpersuaded: The Unintended Consequences of Voter Persuasion Efforts
Georgetown University - Department of Government
Daniel J. Hopkins
Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)
May 26, 2014
Can randomized experiments at the individual level help assess the persuasive effects of campaign tactics? To answer that question, we analyze a field experiment conducted during the 2008 presidential election in which 56,000 registered voters in Wisconsin were assigned to persuasive canvassing, phone calls, and/or mail. We find that persuasive appeals by canvassers had two unintended consequences. First, they reduced responsiveness to a follow-up survey among infrequent voters, a substantively interesting behavioral response that has implications for the statistical analysis of persuasion experiments. Second, the persuasive appeals possibly reduced candidate support and certainly did not increase it. This counter-intuitive finding is reinforced by multiple statistical methods and suggests that contact by a political campaign can engender a backlash.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 46
Keywords: Persuasion, campaign effects, U.S. presidential elections, missing data, field experiments
Date posted: August 10, 2013 ; Last revised: May 28, 2014
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