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ADP Research: IUSB’s Elizabeth Bennion on effect of E-Mail Outreach on Voter Registration

Elizabeth Bennion, faculty member and ADP Campus Coordinator from Indiana University South Bend and her co-author David Nickerson, have published an article in Political Research Quarterly. The article is based on an research study involving 26 American Democracy Project campuses.

“The Cost of Conviencence: An Experiment Showing E-Mail Outreach Decreases Voter Registration” suggests that classroom-based registration is much more effective than email-based outreach. Although e-mail registration appeals proved ineffective (see article), student registration rates rose by 10% following professor-led presentations and by 9% following peer-led presentations on 16 AASCU campuses following a fully-randomized experimental protocol for classroom-based voter registration. Another article on their classroom findings is forthcoming.

The Cost of Convenience: An Experiment Showing E-Mail Outreach Decreases Voter Registration
By Elizabeth A. Bennion & David W. Nickerson


Lower transaction costs have shifted voter registration activities online and away from traditional modes of outreach. Downloading forms may impose higher transaction costs than traditional outreach for some people and thereby decrease electoral participation. A randomized, controlled experiment tested this hypothesis by encouraging treatment participants via e-mail to use online voter registration tools. The treatment group was 0.3 percentage points less likely to be registered to vote after the election. A follow-up experiment sent reminders via text message to randomly selected people who had downloaded registration forms. The treatment increased rates of registration by 4 percentage points, suggesting that reminders can ameliorate many of the negative effects of directing people to downloadable online registration forms.

voter registration, e-mail, online, mobilization, civic participation, experiment, procrastination

Published online before print September 24, 2010, doi: 10.1177/1065912910382304 Political Research Quarterly December 2011 vol. 64 no. 4 858-869

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