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


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.

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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

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Ryan L. Claassen , David B. Magleby , J. Quin Monson , and Kelly D. Patterson . 2008. ‘‘At Your Service’: Voter Evaluations of Poll Worker Performance’. American Politics Research 36:612634.

James N Druckman . 2001. ‘On the Limits of Framing Effects: Who Can Frame?’. Journal of Politics 63(4):10411066.

Alan S. Gerber , Gregory A. Huber , Daniel R. Biggers , and David J. Hendry . 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.

Carl I. Hovland , and Walter Weiss . 1951–1952. ‘The Influence of Source Credibility on Communication Effectiveness’. Public Opinion Quarterly 15:635650.

Arthur Lupia . 1994. ‘Shortcuts Versus Encyclopedias: Information and Voting Behavior in California Insurance Reform Elections’. American Political Science Review 88(1):6376.

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Political Science Research and Methods
  • ISSN: 2049-8470
  • EISSN: 2049-8489
  • URL: /core/journals/political-science-research-and-methods
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