The (in)effectiveness of political mobilization

This topic came up in my Public Opinion and Voting Behavior class this week, and I thought it might be of interest to a more general audience.

“Politial mobilization” refers to efforts to “mobilize” non-voters to get out to the polls to vote. These campaign efforts are commonly called GOTV (Get Out The Vote). How effective are these efforts? Not very. This is a brief summary of political science research on the issue:

  • Most people either vote or they don’t. It’s very difficult to successfully mobilize habitual non-voters, and those that are habitual voters don’t need much of a reminder.
  • Those that do vote are disproportionally older, wealthier, smarter, and whiter than those that don’t vote.
  • Face-to-face and door-to-door canvassing are the most effective political mobilization tools, but it’s very “expensive” in terms of time and money when considering how effective it is. Campaigns have to put in hundreds of hours of face-to-face mobilization to increase turnout by just a few percentage points. One study figured that 1 new voter is added for every 1 hour of campaign mobilization efforts.
  • Telephone get-out-the-vote efforts are generally NOT effective to any measurable degree.

Sources: here and here.

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