Street Fight

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Citation

Costas Panagopoulos (2009) Street fight: The impact of a street sign campaign on voter turnout. Electoral Studies, 28 (2), 309–313

Highlights

In this study, teams of 3 volunteers holding signs that said “Vote Tomorrow” stood at heavily trafficked intersections near voting locations from 7am to 6pm the day before election day.

The street teams increased turnout by 3.48 percentage points. The average election district in the sample consisted of approximately 831 registered voters. Raising turnout among registered voters by 3.48 percentage points in an average district implies an increase of 29 votes.

Staffed by volunteers, this amounts to pennies per vote, far cheaper than canvassing at $20 per vote, direct mail at $60 per vote and commercial phone banks at $100 per vote (Green and Gerber, 2008).

Abstract

Over the past two decades, there has been a resurgence in the use of field experimental methods to examine the impact of a range of get-out-the-vote tactics (Green and Gerber, 2008), continuing a tradition that dates as far back as Gosnell (1927). Scholars have investigated the impact of face-to-face canvassing, direct mail, phone calls, leafleting, and mass media (Green and Gerber, 2008), yet no field experiment of which we are aware has tested the impact of a street sign campaign on voter mobilization. This study reports the first randomized field experiment gauging the effects of a nonpartisan get-out-the-vote street sign campaign. The experiment we describe is essentially a matched-pair, cluster-randomized design conducted in the context of the November 2005 municipal elections in New York City. We identified 14 pairs of poll sites (voting locations) that were closely matched in terms of past voter turnout. One poll site in each pair was randomly assigned to be exposed to the treatment that encouraged voters to vote on the day before Election Day. The street sign intervention is found to produce higher turnout.

Additional Reference

Green, D.P., Gerber, A.S., 2008. Get Out the Vote! How to Increase Voter Turnout, second ed. Brookings Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

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