Research Studies and Experiments

Political Research

Down-Ballot Roll-Off

Check out Sister District’s new, comprehensive guide to down-ballot roll-off, including our latest research findings, upcoming projects, and links to additional resources.

Click to learn more about what roll-off is and how it affects election outcomes—especially for critical state legislative races, which hinge on razor-thin vote margins—and learn why roll-off is so bad for Democrats. We also share the fascinating results from our battleground-state survey of roll-off, giving a clearer picture of which voters do and don’t vote down-ballot, and why.

About our Research

All research studies and experiments are carried out by the Sister District Action Network (SDAN), the 501(c)(4) non-profit affiliate of Sister District. 

Under the direction of Dr. Gaby Goldstein and Jillian Evans, the SDAN team specializes in political research and civic engagement, focusing on things like voter behavior, volunteer engagement, outreach methods, and messaging.

We are excited and honored to work alongside researchers at such well respected institutions as the Voter Participation Center, the Mississippi NAACPVirginia Tech University, and the University of Michigan.



In addition to evaluating the efficacy of different engagement tactics and communication methods, the SDAN team also looks into trends within:

Voter Behavior

Voter Registration, Voter Turnout, Voter Demographics

Voter, Volunteer, Fundraising Messaging

Get Out The Vote (GOTV) Messaging, Persuasion Messaging, Contact Timeline, “Friendraising”

Volunteer & Field Activities Research 

Postcarding, Phonbanking, Textbanking/ Text Messaging, Political Canvassing

Completed Research

StudyElection/ Year ConductedDate Reported (Blog)Type of StudyArea of Study (e.g. VR)PartnerShort Report linkBlog link
Voter Registration prime and chase with VPC20188/16/2018RCTVoter registrationVoter Participation CenterLinkBlog
Voter Registration chase replication with VPC201808/23/2019RCTVoter registrationVoter Participation CenterLinkBlog
GOTV postcards201808/27/2019RCTVoter engagement½ VPC; ½ campaignLinkBlog
VR Voting pipeline20188/27/2019AnalysisVoter registrationVoter Participation CenterLinkBlog
Relational voter turnout on FB201802/19/2020RCTVoter engagementVirginia Tech UniversityLinkBlog
Recruitment volunteer engagement pilot2018N/ARCTVolunteer engagementVirginia Tech University
Confirmation volunteer engagement pilot2018N/ARCTVolunteer engagementVirginia Tech University
Recruitment volunteer engagement study201805/07/2019RCTVolunteer engagementVirginia Tech UniversityLinkBlog
Confirmation volunteer engagement study201805/07/2019RCTVolunteer engagementVirginia Tech UniversityLinkBlog
Ladder of engagement pilot study201901/05/2021Pseudo-experimentVolunteer engagementLinkBlog
SD 2019 volunteer survey201906/07/2019SurveyVolunteer engagementLinkBlog
GOTV texting with NAACP20199/25/2020RCTVoter engagementMS NAACPLinkBlog
Phonebank/canvass postcard chase pilot201901/04/2021RCTVoter engagementLinkBlog
3 wave educational postcards20191/21/2021RCTVoter engagementLinkBlog
Friendraising pilot20198/27/2019Pseudo-experimentVolunteer engagementLinkBlog
SD 2020 volunteer survey202009/18/2020SurveyVolunteer engagementLinkBlog
Friendraising full study202010/21/2020Pseudo-experimentVolunteer engagementLinkBlog
Postcards and letters head to head202010/1/2020RCTVoter registrationVoter Participation CenterLinkBlog
Postcard postmark202006/15/2020RCTVoter engagementLinkBlog
Two primaries postcards20202/11/2021RCTVoter engagementLinkBlog
Two primaries substudy20205/28/2021RCTVoter engagementLinkBlog
Covid-19 voting survey with U of M202010/28/2020RCT/survey (intervention ineffective)Voter engagementUniversity of MichiganN/ABlog
Phonebank/canvass chaser postcard full study20205/14/2021RCTVoter engagementLinkBlog
2020 primary study downstream analysis20205/27/2021AnalysisVoter engagementLinkBlog
Mobilize + personal text study202105/18/2021RCTVolunteer engagementLinkBlog
GA VBM Text Chase202006/15/2021RCTVoter engagementLinkBlog
Constituent demographics20222021DescriptiveSecondary researchN/ABlog
Values-matched messaging postcard study20225/18/2022RCTVoter engagementLinkBlog
Values vs Policy fundraising emails20223/9/2022A/B testVoter engagementLinkBlog
Votes to Majority20227/6/2022DescriptiveSecondary researchN/ABlog
Downballot roll-off20229/14/2022DescriptiveSecondary researchN/ABlog
Surge and Decline202110/24/2022DescriptiveSecondary researchN/ABlog
Antecedents to flipping202111/8/2022DescriptiveSecondary researchN/ABlog
Partially written pro-choice primary postcards202212/15/2022RCTVoter engagementLinkBlog
New voters of color 202112/20/22RCTVoter engagementLinkBlog
3 rings pilot 22022
2/28/2023Pseudo-experimentVoter engagementLinkBlog
Values-matched messaging postcards (replication)20227/19/2023RCTVoter engagementLinkBlog
Insurrectionist accountability texting study20228/8/2023RCTVoter engagementLinkBlog
Partially handwritten postcards: downstream effects20228/8/2023RCTVoter engagementLinkBlog

Field Activities Research

Field Research Overview

Bottom line: Traditionally, methods using live conversation (e.g., canvassing and phonebanking) are more effective than other methods of voter outreach.


Bottom line: Canvassing has traditionally been known as the most effective form of voter contact because of the opportunity for face-to-face, two-way communication.


Bottom line: If canvassing is not an option, phonebanking has traditionally been the next best thing.



Bottom line: The effectiveness of textbanking needs more research. There’s evidence that text messaging has small effects on voter turnout and voter registration.


Bottom line: The effectiveness of handwritten communications like postcarding and letter writing needs more research. There’s evidence that both have small effects on voter turnout and that postcarding has a small effect on voter registration.

Volunteer Engagement

Bottom Line:  Direct contact with volunteers results in more participation. 

Relational Organizing

Bottom line: Relational organizing is the most impactful tactic that individuals can use to influence elections.

Social Pressure

Bottom line: Social pressure is highly effective and social pressure mail has been shown to be more effective than regular direct mail.

Sister District Whitepapers

SDAN’s white papers are meant to provide enough detail about our studies to allow others to completely understand our findings and replicate our methods. These white papers provide more rationale behind the studies, as well as more detail about methods and analyses employed, compared to our blogs and short reports. They are perfect for fellow scientists and number crunchers, as well as anyone who is curious about learning more about what went into a particular study. White papers are published as they are available.

An American Melting Pot? Describing the constituencies of state legislative Democrats and Republicans in the US

Gaby Goldstein, JD, PhD
Mallory Roman, PhD

Call (or text) your girlfriend: Personal contact increases volunteer RSVP and attendance rates

Gaby Goldstein, JD, PhD
Mallory Roman, PhD

Location, Location, Location: Does postcard postmark location matter for voter turnout?

Gaby Goldstein, JD, PhD
Mallory Roman, PhD

Call (or text) your girlfriend: Personal contact to confirm intention to attend increases volunteer attendance rates

Gaby Goldstein, JD, PhD
Mallory Roman, PhD


Sister District Action Network (SDAN) inspires and empowers legislators, organizations, volunteers, and voters through civic education, rigorous research, policy analysis, and strategic convenings to engage deeply in state legislative issues.

Get in contact with us or if you’d like to sign up to be part of the civic engagement team, click here!