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

Abstract

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 (alan.gerber@yale.edu) and Gregory A. Huber (gregory.huber@yale.edu) 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 (albert.fang@yale.edu) and Andrew Gooch (andrew.gooch@yale.edu) 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 https://doi.org/10.1017/psrm.2017.16

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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.
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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.
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Political Science Research and Methods
  • ISSN: 2049-8470
  • EISSN: 2049-8489
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