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If You Mobilize Them, They Will Become Informed: Experimental Evidence that Information Acquisition Is Endogenous to Costs and Incentives to Participate

  • Victoria Anne Shineman
Abstract

Because non-voters are less politically informed than voters, some propose that increasing voter turnout would reduce the quality of information among the active voting population, damaging electoral outcomes. However, the proposed tradeoff between increased participation and informed participation is a false dichotomy. This article demonstrates that political information is endogenous to participation. A field experiment integrates an intensive mobilization treatment into a panel survey conducted before and after a city-wide election. Subjects who were mobilized to vote also became more informed about the content of the election. The results suggest institutions that encourage participation not only increase voter turnout – mobilizing electoral participation also motivates citizens to become more politically informed.

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Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Pittsburgh (email: shineman@pitt.edu). Support for this research was provided by a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (Award #1065771) as well as from grants received from the Rita Mae Kelly Endowment Fellowship, the New York University Center for Experimental Social Science, and the Wilf Family Department of Politics at New York University. No funds from the National Science Foundation were used to pay for monetary incentives for participation. The author wishes to thank Neal Beck, David Brockington, Eric Dickson, Patrick Egan, Bob Erikson, Michael Goodhart, Sandy Gordon, Jon Hurwitz, Kris Kanthak, George Krause, Michael Laver, Gianmarco León, Aniol Llorente-Saguer, Peter Loewen, Henry Milner, Rebecca Morton, Jonathan Nagler, Hans Noel, Costas Panagopoulos, Betsy Sinclair, Carolyn Tolbert, Joshua Tucker, Jon Woon, and several anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments at various stages of development. She is also grateful for comments received during workshops at Columbia University, New York University, the University of Notre Dame, and Princeton University. Data replication sets available at https://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataverse/BJPolS and online appendices at http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1017/S0007123416000168.

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British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
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