Don't Forget to Vote: Text Message Reminders as a Mobilization Tool

Authors


  • We are extremely grateful for the help of our many partners. We received generous support from the following organizations and individuals: Working Assets, Mobile Voter, Student PIRGs, The UMass Donahue Institute Civic Initiative, Young Voter Strategies, The Mellman Group, Survey Sampling International, Catalist, Kieloch Consulting, David Nickerson, Donald Green, Craig Thomas, Martin Gilens, Chris Achen, Don Kinder, Spencer Piston, Ray La Raja, and several anonymous reviewers.

Allison Dale is a Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan, 5700 Haven Hall, 505 South State Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1045 (daleal@umich.edu). Aaron Strauss has a Ph.D. in Politics, Princeton University, 130 Corwin Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544-1012 (abstraus@princeton.edu).

Abstract

Current explanations of effective voter mobilization strategies maintain that turnout increases only when a potential voter is persuaded to participate through increased social connectedness. The connectedness explanation does not take into account, however, that registered voters, by registering, have already signaled their interest in voting. The theory presented in this article predicts that impersonal, noticeablemessages can succeed in increasing the likelihood that a registered voter will turn out by reminding the recipient that Election Day is approaching. Text messaging is examined as an example of an impersonal, noticeable communication to potential voters. A nationwide field experiment (n = 8,053) in the 2006 election finds that text message reminders produce a statistically significant 3.0 percentage point increase in the likelihood of voting. While increasing social connectedness has been shown to positively affect voter turnout, the results of this study, in combination with empirical evidence from prior studies, suggest that connectedness is not a necessary condition for a successful mobilization campaign. For certain voters, a noticeable reminder is sufficient to drive them to the polls.

Ancillary