We’re part of a proud tradition of progressives using data and behavioral science to hone campaign strategy. We synthesize existing research and run our own experiments on new tactics to make sure our programs have the largest return on investment possible. Check out some of the proven and experimental tactics we implement in our programs:
Sending field representatives door to door to have meaningful conversations with voters is hands down the most effective way to increase turnout. Experiments have shown that conversations at the door increase turnout more than 7 percent and make a lasting impact on voting behavior9. Why does it work so well? Yale political science professors Donald Green and Alan Gerber write, “mobilizing voters is rather like inviting them to a social occasion. Personal invitations convey the most warmth and work best.”10 Like many of the techniques we employ, going door to door works because having an authentic human interaction makes people feel it matters to their community if they vote and that their community is going to hold them accountable.
Social Pressure Mailings
While who you vote for is a secret, whether or not you voted is a matter of public record, and letting people know that is one of the most effective ways to increase turnout. Sending voters their own voting record or their community’s voting record has been proven to increase turnout as much as six to eight percent11. Mail of this kind is called social pressure mail, because it applies a bit of peer pressure to help people get civically engaged. It leverages our positive instincts, to be seen as a good community member and responsible citizens, to help get us to the polls. But these mailings aren’t a magic bullet. Making them as effective as possible without creating something off-putting to voters is a real challenge.
Texting and Digital Ads
The way Americans consume media has changed dramatically. Americans don’t just watch TV and read newspapers anymore: they use the internet and social media at unprecedented rates and use mobile phones to do everything from paying bills to reading the news. While broadcast audiences continue to shrink, more than 75 percent of adult Americans have an active social media account12, and 92 percent of Americans have a cell phone13. Campaigns need to think hard about who they’re targeting and how to engage them on the platforms they use. But figuring out what does and doesn’t work on these new platforms is going to take some experimenting. PTP is doing pioneering research on how to use mobile phones and digital ads to reach the right voters and get them to the polls. Check out our work with college students at Wayne State University on how a texting program can increase turnout.
Neighbor to Neighbor Letters
Time and time again, research shows that the people who are the most effective at increasing turnout in a given community are the people in that community. Neighbors trust each other and inspire each other to become engaged in a way that outsiders have a tough time replicating. PTP harnesses this power by encouraging our supporters to send out a “neighbor to neighbor letter” in their own communities. These letters, from one community member to another, encourage neighbors to fulfill their civic duty and head to the polls on election day. We count on our supporters to help power this initiative.
9Green, Donald P., and Alan S. Gerber. Get out the Vote!: How to Increase Voter Turnout. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2012. 139-40. Print.
10Green, Donald P., and Alan S. Gerber. Get out the Vote!: How to Increase Voter Turnout. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 2012. 139-40. Print.
11Issenberg, Sasha. The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns. New York: Crown, 2012. 12-13. Print.
12“Social Networking Fact Sheet.” Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center, 27 Dec. 2014. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.
13“Mobile Technology Fact Sheet.” Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center, 27 Dec. 2014. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.