Connecting the Vote: Evaluating the Effect of Peer Encouragement on Turnout in the 2020 Election

20 Pages Posted: 11 May 2023

Date Written: May 1, 2023

Abstract

Friend-to-friend voter mobilization is a theoretically promising but understudied tactic. The present study reports the results of a randomized experiment designed to evaluate the effects of a distributed voter mobilization drive in which high school and college-age “captains” around the country encouraged turnout among people they know. One-third of the subjects are lost to attrition because captains often provided incomplete or outdated information about their friends’ birth dates or addresses. Among those matched to the voter file, the base rate of voting among subjects assigned to the control group is very high, 85%. We find no increase in turnout due to friend-to-friend mobilization, despite past studies demonstrating large results. This study illustrates the limitations of friend-to-friend mobilization when conducted without close oversight of captains, during high salience elections, and among those captains whose friends tend to be politically active already.

Keywords: field experiment, voter turnout, friend-to-friend, peer-to-peer, youth turnout, voter mobilization

JEL Classification: D72

Suggested Citation

Cohen, Hayley M. and Green, Donald P., Connecting the Vote: Evaluating the Effect of Peer Encouragement on Turnout in the 2020 Election (May 1, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4434105 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4434105

Hayley M. Cohen (Contact Author)

Columbia University ( email )

7th Floor, International Affairs Bldg.
420 W. 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

Donald P. Green

Columbia University ( email )

7th Floor, International Affairs Bldg.
420 W. 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

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