The Key To Turnout: Social Pressure

Brendan Nyhan points our attenton to a study in the American Political Science Review about an experiment involving a campaign mail piece that, on average, increased turnout by the same size as face-to-face canvassing efforts, the reigning heavyweight champion of knock-and-drag methods employed by campaigns today.

Those voters who recieved mailing promising -- or, essentially, -- threatening -- to publicize whether they voted or not -- were much more likely to vote than those who didn't, by an average of 8 percentage points.

That's an enormous increase over regular mail pieces.

Campaigns aren't going to start hectoring voters, but the findings may help them find ways to prime the recipients of mailings using less threatening techniques. The lesson drawn by authors Alan S. Gerber, Donald P. Green, and Christopher W. Larimer is clear: social pressure works. It's a lesson used to great effectiveness by the Bush campaign in 2004, which allowed volunteers to compare their efforts against one another, and the Obama campaign, which employed similar techniques.