Unresponsive and Unpersuaded: The Unintended Consequences of Voter Persuasion Efforts
46 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2013 Last revised: 28 May 2014
Date Written: 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.
Keywords: Persuasion, campaign effects, U.S. presidential elections, missing data, field experiments
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