Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-cjp7w Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-13T11:30:20.091Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Nongovernmental Campaign Communication Providing Ballot Secrecy Assurances Increases Turnout: Results From Two Large-Scale Experiments*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 June 2017


Doubts about the integrity of ballot secrecy persist and depress political participation among the American public. Prior experiments have shown that official communications directly addressing these doubts increase turnout among recently registered voters who had not previously voted, but evaluations of similar messages sent by nongovernmental campaigns have yielded only suggestive effects. We build on past research and analyze two large-scale field experiments where a private nonpartisan nonprofit group sought to increase turnout by emphasizing ballot secrecy assurances alongside a reminder to vote in a direct mail voter mobilization campaign during the 2014 midterm election. Our main finding is that a private group’s mailing increases turnout by about 1 percentage point among recently registered nonvoters. This finding is precisely estimated and robust across state political contexts, but is not statistically distinguishable from the effect of a standard voter mobilization appeal. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.

Research Notes
© The European Political Science Association 2017 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Alan S. Gerber ( and Gregory A. Huber ( are Professors in the Department of Political Science, Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University, 77 Prospect Street, PO Box 208209, New Haven, CT 06520-8209. Albert H. Fang ( and Andrew Gooch ( are Postdoctoral Associates in the Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University, 77 Prospect Street, PO Box 208209, New Haven, CT 06520-8209. To view supplementary material for this article, please visit


Bishop, Cortlandt F. 1893. History of Elections in the American Colonies. New York: Columbia College.Google Scholar
Claassen, Ryan L., Magleby, David B., Monson, J. Quin, and Patterson, Kelly D.. 2008. ‘‘At Your Service’: Voter Evaluations of Poll Worker Performance’. American Politics Research 36:612634.Google Scholar
Druckman, James N. 2001. ‘On the Limits of Framing Effects: Who Can Frame?’. Journal of Politics 63(4):10411066.Google Scholar
Evans, Eldon C. 1917. A History of the Australian Ballot System in the United States. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Fredman, Lionel E. 1968. The Australian Ballot: The Story of an American Reform. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press.Google Scholar
Gerber, Alan S., Huber, Gregory A., Biggers, Daniel R., and Hendry, David J.. 2014. ‘Ballot Secrecy Concerns and Voter Mobilization: New Experimental Evidence About Message Source, Context, and the Duration of Mobilization Effects’. American Politics Research 42(5):896923.Google Scholar
Gerber, Alan S., Huber, Gregory A., Doherty, David, and Dowling, Conor M.. 2013a. ‘Is There a Secret Ballot? Ballot Secrecy Perceptions and Their Implications for Voting Behaviour’. British Journal of Political Science 41(1):77102.Google Scholar
Gerber, Alan S., Huber, Gregory A., Doherty, David, Dowling, Conor M., and Hill, Seth J.. 2013b. ‘Do Perceptions of Ballot Secrecy Influence Turnout? Results from a Field Experiment’. American Journal of Political Science 57(3):537551.Google Scholar
Green, Donald P., McGrath, Mary C., and Aronow, Peter M.. 2013. ‘Field Experiments and the Study of Voter Turnout’. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties 23(1):2748.Google Scholar
Hovland, Carl I., and Weiss, Walter. 1951–1952. ‘The Influence of Source Credibility on Communication Effectiveness’. Public Opinion Quarterly 15:635650.Google Scholar
Lupia, Arthur. 1994. ‘Shortcuts Versus Encyclopedias: Information and Voting Behavior in California Insurance Reform Elections’. American Political Science Review 88(1):6376.Google Scholar
Malhotra, Neil, Michelson, Melissa R., and Valenzuela, Ali Adam. 2012. ‘Emails from Official Sources Can Increase Turnout’. Quarterly Journal of Political Science 7(3):321332.Google Scholar
Wigmore, John H. 1889. The Australian Ballot System as Embodied in the Legislation of Various Countries. Boston, MA: C.C. Soule.Google Scholar
Supplementary material: Link

Gerber et al supplementary material

Supplementary material: PDF

Gerber et al supplementary material

Gerber et al supplementary material 1

Download Gerber et al supplementary material(PDF)
PDF 906.7 KB