Celebrities and GOTV: An Experiment to Motivate Voting Among College Students
20 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2013
Date Written: 2013
An increasing number of celebrities have become involved in organized efforts to encourage young people to vote. In this paper, we examine whether celebrities are effective at these get out the vote (GOTV) efforts. In an experiment embedded in a survey conducted right before the 2012 presidential election, we exposed college students to a mock news story encouraging them to vote. We varied whether this information came from a celebrity possessing high or low levels of credibility, a former student body president, or an anonymous generic source. To estimate differences in voting intentions and validated turnout, we also included a control group that was never encouraged to vote. Overall, we find minimal evidence that celebrities are effective at mobilizing young voters. Democrats’ actual turnout was higher when they received an anonymously sourced GOTV appeal, but not when the same message was sourced to a celebrity. In addition, political independents expressed a greater intention to vote in a celebrity treatment condition, but this effect was not replicated with validated turnout data. In fact, Republicans and Independents were actually less likely to have voted when exposed to a GOTV message, and in the case of Independents when it was sourced to a celebrity.
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