Research Studies and Experiments

Political 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 NAACP, Virginia 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

Additional information about our research is available in our Whitepapers.

SDAN Interviews and Events

Interested in hearing more from our SDAN team or learning more about grassroots organizing? Check out Sister District’s Instagram during the election cycle!

Dr. Mallory Roman breaks down the latest political trends and research updates on “Mondays with Mallory.”

Catch “State Bridges Live,” where SDAN Program Associate Ore Obiwumi connects Sister District partners and grassroots groups throughout the country to discuss what they are seeing on the ground while working in their local communities.

The Press Library includes features in national media outlets, Op-Eds, podcasts, statements, and more.    

Voter Registration and Engagement Research

Volunteer Research

Person texting

Friendraising works: Exploring message type and sender and their effects on friendraising

Sister District Action Network (SDAN) ran this study to explore the efficacy of friendraising, or leveraging personal relationships to raise money for candidates, by comparing two different email message frames, as well as comparing the efficacy of friendraising emails to the efficacy of traditional candidate fundraising emails sent from Sister District Project HQ.

Read More »

Volunteer Resources

Secondary Research Reports

Secondary Research Reports

Partisan control over time: Antecedents to flipping state legislatures

This analysis was a correlational study using archival data that sought to determine if the state-wide election results for President, Governor, and/or U.S. Senate flipping from one party to another could serve as a reliable antecedent to, 1) state legislative chambers subsequently flipping to that same party, and/or 2) the state becoming a trifecta for that party.

Read More »

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

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


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!