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For Our Future Results Memo

In 2018, For Our Future partnered with Analyst Institute to test the impact of relational voter engagement on turnout as a part of the Directed Research Fund.

For Our Future’s relational voter contact program had a large, statistically significant effect on turnout. Relational contact increased turnout by 3.7 percentage points (pp) (p = 0.08). This effect size is in line with our 1 meta-analysis, and by comparison is higher than the average effects of other modes of GOTV contact modeled in a midterm election. This confirms that relational voter contact can be an effective way to mobilize voters.

Author: Analyst Institute, August 2019

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Voces de la Frontera Action Results Memo

Voces de la Frontera Action is a membership-based community organization and worker center led by Latinx and immigrant workers. They seek to increase the Latinx vote to impact electoral outcomes in Wisconsin. In 2018, Voces de la Frontera Action partnered with Analyst Institute to test the impact of relational voter engagement on turnout as a part of the Analyst Institute’s Directed Research Fund. Using Empower (formerly MyRVP), Voceros mapped their social networks.

Voces de la Frontera Action’s relational voter contact program appears to have increased overall turnout, with the effect being concentrated among those who did not match to the voter file when initially entered into Empower.

Author: Analyst Institute, August 2019

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ROC Action Results Memo

ROC Action is a national organization of more than 100,000 workers, employers, and consumers organizing for better wages and working conditions in the restaurant industry. Through their coworker-to-coworker model they seek to mobilize restaurant workers, millions of whom are women, youth, and people of color, to build long-term, collective power to create change.

In 2018, ROC Action partnered with Analyst Institute to test the effectiveness of their relational voter turnout program as a part of the Directed Research Fund. To build their program, ROC Action used their One Fair Wage campaign to recruit Champions in Michigan. Using Empower (formerly MyRVP), Champions mapped their networks, each listing an average of 5 contacts to build an experimental universe of targets. Notably, ROC Action’s relational voter turnout program reached a significantly larger scale than any relational voter turnout program studied with a randomized controlled trial prior to the 2018 cycle.

Author: Analyst Institute, August 2019

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Revisiting What Happened in the 2018 Election: An Analysis of the Catalist Voter Registration Database

Turnout increased dramatically compared to past midterms, and the composition of the 2018 electorate resembled recent Presidential electorates much more than recent midterms. Young voters and voters of color, particularly Latinx voters, were a substantially larger share of the electorate than in past midterms. White non-college voters and people we’ve historically modeled as Republican supporters were a smaller share. The 2018 electorate was similar to 2016, with the exception of age: midterm electorates are older than Presidential electorates generally speaking, and 2018 ended up somewhere between 2016 and 2014 in this regard.

Author: Yair Ghitza, May 2019

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Call (or Text) Your Girlfriend — Personal Contact Works Better Than Just Email To Recruit and Confirm Volunteers to Attend Team Events

Personally contacting volunteers more than doubled RSVP and attendance rates over sending just emails. Personally contacting volunteers increased RSVP rates by 168% and attendance rates by 177% over just sending emails asking people to come. Our findings indicate that giving volunteers a call and leaving a voicemail, giving them a call plus sending them a text, and just sending them a text are all superior means of communication over just sending an email if you want people to RSVP and then show up to your team activity!

Authors: Gaby Goldstein & Mallory Roman, May 2019

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Social Influence & Voter Turnout

Academic studies find numerous factors influence voting behaviors. In this report we (i) synthesize the most highly-cited, publicly-available academic studies on social influence and voter turnout and (ii) include an appendix of the most-cited studies on voting. To make this report digestible for political campaign professionals, we label each study by its outreach method, psychological mechanism, and outcome affected.

Authors: Lea Lassoued & Robert Reynolds, May 2019

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2018 voter turnout rose dramatically for groups favoring Democrats, census confirms

The results of the 2018 election are well known, highlighted by the Democrats’ “blue wave” takeover of the House of Representatives and other state offices across the country. However, recently released data from the Census Bureau sheds new light on how this was done—with extraordinarily high levels of voter turnout among voting blocs that lean Democratic. These data, from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS) voting supplement, provide information not available earlier—estimates of voter turnout for key demographic groups—both nationally and for states. They tell us which groups exceeded turnout expectations in 2018 and suggest that good things may be in store for Democrats in the 2020 presidential contest.

Even before all the votes were counted last November, reports indicated that turnout had surged. Now, the Census Bureau’s estimates show that the 2018 turnout—at 53.4 percent—was the highest in midterm elections since it started collecting voter turnout numbers (voters per 100 citizens) in 1978; and for the first time since 1982, it rose above 50 percent. Interestingly, this surge follows the lowest midterm turnout rate in the Census Bureau’s time series—41.9 percent in 2014.

Author: William H. Frey, May 2019

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Historic highs in 2018 voter turnout extended across racial and ethnic groups

More than half of U.S. eligible voters cast a ballot in 2018, the highest turnout rate for a midterm election in recent history, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The increased turnout was particularly pronounced among Hispanics and Asians, making last year’s midterm voters the most racially and ethnically diverse ever.

With enthusiasm at a record high, more than 122 million people voted in the 2018 elections, the highest in a midterm election year since 1978. Last year also marked the first time since 1982 that the voter turnout rate in midterm elections surpassed 50%. This was a stark reversal from the previous midterm year, when turnout had decreased – from 45.5% in 2010 to 41.9% in 2014. (The voter turnout rate is the share who cast a ballot among eligible voters, defined as U.S. citizens ages 18 and older. Historical data in this analysis starts in 1978, the first year the Census Bureau gathered citizenship data for its survey of voters.)

Jens Manuel Krogstad, Luis Noe-Bustante & Antonio Flores, May 2019

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The Democratic Electorate on Twitter Is Not the Actual Democratic Electorate

Today’s Democratic Party is increasingly perceived as dominated by its “woke” left wing. But the views of Democrats on social media often bear little resemblance to those of the wider Democratic electorate.

The outspoken group of Democratic-leaning voters on social media is outnumbered, roughly 2 to 1, by the more moderate, more diverse and less educated group of Democrats who typically don’t post political content online, according to data from the Hidden Tribes Project.

Democrats who do not post political content to social media sites are more likely to identify themselves as moderates or conservatives, say they don’t follow the news much, and are African-American.

Authors: Nate Cohn and Kevin Quealy, April 2019

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The best way for Democrats to win in 2020? By ignoring the candidates for now.

Most candidates agree that “grass-roots engagement” and a good ground campaign matter, but too often candidates misunderstand what actually makes them work.

People power is not a spigot that can be turned on and off with fancy technology. Instead, it depends on interwoven human networks through which people learn to work together on things they care about, even when the electoral spotlight is not on. Campaigns, and political parties, can help build these networks — or make them wither away. In 2009, national Democrats opted to let them wither. They’re back at that crossroads today.

Authors: Hahrie Han & Lara Putnam, April 2019

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Commentary: Friend-to-friend pledge boosts voter turnout in Intermountain West

To encourage Montanans to get their friends to vote, the nonpartisan organization Forward Montana piloted a pledge program before a Pearl Jam concert in Missoula last August. With three local nonprofit groups, volunteers canvassed a pre-concert block party outside Washington-Grizzly Stadium and asked people, “Will you pledge to get three friends to vote?”

In two hours, the volunteers got 3,252 of the 10,000 attendees to complete the pledge, which involved sharing their cellphone number and the first names of three friends they would encourage.

Author: Robert Reynolds, March 2019


The Power Of Non-Activists: Why Those Least Interested In Politics May Be The Best Political Organizers

“Ahead of 2020, Democrats must answer, “How do we spark non-activists to get a few close friends to vote?” The solution to this problem is likely different than the solution to getting activists to remind their friends. While activists need fancy database-matching technology to identify which of their friends are irregular voters, non-activists may not need help selecting friends because plenty of their close friends need nudges to vote. The behavioral science-based approach to answering this begins with understanding the key barriers that inhibit non-activists from urging their friends to vote.”

Authors: Robert Reynold & Dev Chandra, January 2019

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Children can foster climate change concern among their parents

The collective action that is required to mitigate and adapt to climate change is extremely difficult to achieve, largely due to socio-ideological biases that perpetuate polarization over climate change. Because climate change perceptions in children seem less susceptible to the influence of worldview or political context, it may be possible for them to inspire adults towards higher levels of climate concern, and in turn, collective action. Child-to-parent intergenerational learning—that is, the transfer of knowledge, attitudes or behaviors from children to parents—may be a promising pathway to over-coming socio-ideological barriers to climate concern.

Authors: Danielle Lawson, Kathryn Stevenson, M. Nils Peterson, Sarah Carrier, Renee Strnad & Erin Seekamp, 2019

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Putting People First: How America Votes Partners in Wisconsin and Michigan Are Focusing on Grassroots Engagement to Move Communities Forward

At its core, politics is about people. We fight for and elect leaders we believe in because of the positive change we hope they’ll bring to our communities — our families and friends, congregations and coworkers.

Yet with the 24-hour political news cycle and unending affronts to our values from the Trump administration and its supporters, it can sometimes feel like elected representatives are worlds away from the people they represent. That’s why America Votes partners nationwide are working from the ground up to engage communities in the fight to build back progressive power and elect leaders who really care about the issues that matter most to their constituents. In the second installment of our Spotlight 2018 series, learn how this approach is playing out in Wisconsin and Michigan.

Author: America Votes, September 2018

Politically Invisible in America

“We introduce a new category of Americans: the politically invisible, people that are unreachable using these voter and marketing lists. Matching a high-quality, random sample of the U.S. population to multiple lists reveals that at least 11% of the adult citizenry is unlisted. An additional 12% are mislisted (not living at their recorded address). These groups are invisible to list-based campaigns and research, making them difficult or impossible to contact.”

Authors: Simon Jackman and Bradley Spahn, June 2018


Philanthropy and Digital Civil Society: Blueprint 2018

“The Blueprint series assumes that civil society is dependent on digital technology, data, norms, and regulations. In places where broadband is not available, where data plans are expensive, and where computer literacy is low, people and organizations aspire to get connected; they want to be able to depend on digital. My research looks at the intersections of the digital world—its technologies, policies, and governance—with civil society’s expectations and institutions. These vary significantly from one place to another and within places, across generations and within generations.”

Author: Lucy Bernholz, 2018

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You, me and everyone we know: Relational Organizing for persuasion at scale

The Challenge: persuading & mobilizing voters through traditional tactics is becoming less effective because of the increasing difficulty to model for intensity & turnout.

The Research Question: Is it possible to apply relational organizing techniques - where supporters persuade and GOTV voters in their social networks - at a scale sufficient to make an impact on a Congressional Campaign?

The Persuasion Impact: 17% Increase in Strong Support. We ran an experiment during the Primary and General GOTV period to determine the persuasion impact of our relational organizing program. Volunteers called thousands of voters in a control group AND treatment group to assess support.

Author: Dylan Cate, January 2017

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Social Network Influences on Political Campaign Volunteerism

Leveraging existing relationships may be an effective strategy to boost volunteer recruitment. In a 2015 AI study, randomly assigned members of the Young Democrats at William and Mary received a volunteer recruitment phone call either from a friend or from a member of the campaign. Those who received a call from a friend were a whopping 21 percentage points more likely to volunteer than those contacted by a member of the campaign.

Authors: Meg Schwenzfeier & Jaime Settle, 2015


Recent scholarship has documented the effect of online social networking on political participation, a relationship hypothesized to be due to the generation of social capital. This paper tests the hypothesis that impersonal get-out-the-vote messages delivered via an online social network can increase voter turnout. Specifically, this study uses a field experiment of randomly assigned students from a large southern public university to test the effect of exposure to political messages via Facebook on the likelihood of them voting in the November 2010 election. The results indicate that encouragements to vote delivered through a social networking site can have substantively large effects on political behavior.

Authors: Holly Teresi and Melissa R. Michelson, 2014

Do Community-Based Voter Mobilization Campaigns Work Even in Battleground States? Evaluating the Effectiveness of MoveOn's 2004 Outreach Campaign

One of the hallmarks of the 2004 presidential election was the unusual emphasis on face-to-face voter mobilization, particularly face-to-face mobilization conducted within neighborhoods or social networks. Unlike previous studies of face-to-face voter mobilization, which have focused largely on nonpartisan campaigns conducted during midterm or local elections, this study assesses the effects of a campaign organized by, an organization that allied itself with the Democratic Party in 2004 to aid presidential candidate John Kerry. A regression discontinuity analysis of 46,277 voters from 13 swing states demonstrates that neighbor-to-neighbor mobilization substantially increased turnout among target voters during the 2004 presidential election. Contact with MoveOn volunteers increased turnout by approximately nine percentage-points. This finding corroborates experimental findings showing the effectiveness of door-to-door canvassing but contradicts results suggesting that such mobilization is ineffective in the context of high-salience elections.

Authors: Joel A. Middleton and Donald P. Green Yale University, USA, 2008

Is Voting Contagious? Evidence from Two Field Experiments

Members of the same household share similar voting behaviors on average, but how much of this correlation can be attributed to the behavior of the other person in the household? Disentangling and isolating the unique effects of peer behavior, selection processes, and congruent interests is a challenge for all studies of interpersonal influence. This study proposes and utilizes a carefully designed placebo-controlled experimental protocol to overcome this identification problem. During a face-to-face canvassing experiment targeting households with two registered voters, residents who answered the door were exposed to either a Get Out the Vote message (treatment) or a recycling pitch (placebo). The turnout of the person in the household not answering the door allows for contagion to be measured. Both experiments find that 60% of the propensity to vote is passed onto the other member of the household. This finding suggests a mechanism by which civic participation norms are adopted and couples grow more similar over time.

Author: David W. Nickerson, 2008