Abstract: This pilot study, conducted by Sister District Action Network (SDAN) in 2019, tested whether sending a handwritten postcard to a voter, to follow up on a successful voter contact made by a campaign earlier that year, could increase voter turnout. Three state legislative campaigns provided SDAN with a list of voters that they had successfully contacted through phonebanking or canvassing (i.e., they had actually contacted them vs just attempting to) and who had identified themselves as supporters of the candidate. A randomly chosen half of these voters received a handwritten GOTV postcard shortly before the election reminding them of the contact they had with the campaign and encouraging them to vote, as well as providing information about how to vote. The other half received no postcard. The raw numbers trended in the expected direction, with more people in the postcard chaser condition voting than people who did not receive a postcard, though this difference was not statistically significant (p = 0.406). Interestingly, the postcards were fairly effective in one of the campaigns (candidate 3), while they were fairly ineffective or had backlash in the other two (candidates 1 and 2). This suggests that effects range in size based on unidentified underlying factors associated with campaigns, locations, or other factors.
Objective: This pilot study explored the utility of sending handwritten chaser postcards to voters who have been identified as supporters after a successful voter contact as a way to increase turnout.
Background: Handwriting postcards has emerged as a popular volunteer tactic in the past few years. However, little is known about the most effective uses of postcards. SDAN has conducted several postcarding studies, including two that suggest that chaser postcarding, where the postcard follows another contact is one way to increase the efficacy of postcards (see here and here). Further, several studies indicate that phonebanking and canvassing are useful tactics for campaigns (see here and here). SDAN combined these tactics in order to explore how well chaser postcards sent to amplify a positive phonebanking or canvassing contact might work to mobilize voters to the polls.
Specifics: Three legislative candidates across two states (Mississippi, Louisiana) worked with SDAN to chase supporters who were identified through a canvass or phonebank. Campaigns provided SDAN with contact information for voters who had 1) expressed that they leaned towards supporting or definitely supported the candidate, and 2) partisanship scores of 60-100 indicating that they were likely to vote for Democrats. SDAN randomly chose half of these voters to receive a handwritten “Get Out the Vote” (GOTV) postcard shortly before the general election. The postcard message reminded voters about the contact they had with the campaign and provided them with information and encouragement to vote. The other half received no postcard.
Sister District volunteers hand wrote the postcards and sent them to the campaign office. Campaigns mailed the postcards locally, with estimated delivery to homes from October 28-30, 2019 in Mississippi and November 7-9, 2019 in Louisiana (Louisiana has a “jungle primary” system that had a general election in place of a primary on October 12, 2019, and a runoff election for any races where candidates did not exceed 50% on November 16, 2019; many high profile races like Governor were on the November ballot in 2019). Overall, 1,058 voters in the analysis received postcards and 1,090 voters were enrolled in the control condition, for a total of 2,148. Since several targets were in the same household according to the TargetSmart voter file, we controlled for household as a random effect in the analysis.
This study adds to SDAN’s research on the best practices for postcarding. Even though results were not significant in this pilot study, it provided some intriguing indicators that chaser postcards may be a useful tactic.
It also tested a relatively novel use for postcarding, specifically as a way to boost the utility of a canvassing or phone banking contact. Since these are common campaign activities, knowing how to amplify the effects of a successful canvass or phone conversation with an easily scalable tactic would be beneficial for campaigns. More research is needed to determine if this is the case with chaser postcards that follow up on a campaign contact.
If you’re interested in reading more about this study, a longer report is here.
SDAN’s commitment: It is SDAN’s intention to provide as much context as possible to allow for the nuanced interpretation of our data. SDAN’s convention is to contextualize effects by reporting p values, confidence intervals, and effect sizes for all models tested (these items may be in the longer report linked in the blog). Additionally, SDAN always differentiates between planned and exploratory analyses and a priori and post hoc tests, and reports the results of all planned analyses regardless of statistical significance. If you have questions about these findings please email Mallory.