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From the Field, Research and Experiments

Get Out The Vote: Messaging For The Win

Incredibly, we’re only 29 days out from the election! With ballots starting to drop in various states, it’s officially time to Get Out The Vote (GOTV). But what messaging works best to motivate folks to actually vote?

There are lots of field tactics to turn out voters, but any industry insider will tell you that a method is only as good as your message. There isn’t a ton of published research on GOTV-specific messaging. But there is a lots of research on messaging in larger social psychological and consumer contexts. In this post we review current recommendations for GOTV messaging, and research-based recommendations for messaging in general. Many of these recommendations have their origins in decades of psychological research outside of the political realm, often from social and consumer psychology.

GOTV Messaging Basics
— Industry studies indicate that effects of candidate-centered GOTV messages are similar to the effects of not being contacted at all for voter turnout (in other words: not very effective). This does not mean that candidate-centered GOTV messages “don’t work” — it just means it may not be as effective as other messages discussed below.
— GOTV messages highlighting information about the voting process itself are effective at increasing turnout.
— Current recommendations are cold messages (from strangers or campaigns one has not opted into) or warm messages (from familiar campaigns or people) that inform people of voting information like their polling place, the hours of polling locations, and the dates polls are open.
— Warm messages that talk people through making a plan to vote are also effective.
— Analyst Institute has 6 specific current recommendations for GOTV messaging: 1) Focus on voting, not on persuasion, 2) get people to tell you why they think voting is important, 3) use gentle social pressure messaging, 4) walk the person through their plan to vote, 5) ask the person to make a pledge to vote, and 6) have an authentic conversation with the voter.