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Social Pressure and Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment

Voter turnout theories based on rational self-interested behavior generally fail to predict significant turnout unless they account for the utility that citizens receive from performing their civic duty. We distinguish between two aspects of this type of utility, intrinsic satisfaction from behaving... Full description

Journal Title: The American political science review 2008-02, Vol.102 (1), p.33-48
Main Author: GERBER, ALAN S
Other Authors: GREEN, DONALD P , LARIMER, CHRISTOPHER W
Format: Electronic Article Electronic Article
Language: English
Subjects:
R&D
Publisher: New York, USA: Cambridge University Press
ID: ISSN: 0003-0554
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title: Social Pressure and Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment
format: Article
creator:
  • GERBER, ALAN S
  • GREEN, DONALD P
  • LARIMER, CHRISTOPHER W
subjects:
  • Analysis
  • Civic duty
  • Compliance
  • Data analysis
  • Elections
  • Electoral behaviour
  • Enforcement
  • Experiments
  • Field work
  • Group pressure
  • Households
  • Hypotheses
  • Incentives
  • Influence
  • Mailing lists
  • Mailings
  • Neighborhoods
  • Participation
  • Political aspects
  • Political behavior
  • Political Participation
  • Political systems
  • Political theory
  • Primary elections
  • Public records
  • R&D
  • Research & development
  • Self-interest
  • Social aspects
  • Social networks
  • Social norms
  • Social Pressure
  • Social psychology
  • Studies
  • U.S.A
  • Voter behavior
  • Voter registration
  • Voter Turnout
  • Voters
  • Voting
  • Voting Behavior
  • Voting turnout
ispartof: The American political science review, 2008-02, Vol.102 (1), p.33-48
description: Voter turnout theories based on rational self-interested behavior generally fail to predict significant turnout unless they account for the utility that citizens receive from performing their civic duty. We distinguish between two aspects of this type of utility, intrinsic satisfaction from behaving in accordance with a norm and extrinsic incentives to comply, and test the effects of priming intrinsic motives and applying varying degrees of extrinsic pressure. A large-scale field experiment involving several hundred thousand registered voters used a series of mailings to gauge these effects. Substantially higher turnout was observed among those who received mailings promising to publicize their turnout to their household or their neighbors. These findings demonstrate the profound importance of social pressure as an inducement to political participation.
language: eng
source:
identifier: ISSN: 0003-0554
fulltext: no_fulltext
issn:
  • 0003-0554
  • 1537-5943
url: Link


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descriptionVoter turnout theories based on rational self-interested behavior generally fail to predict significant turnout unless they account for the utility that citizens receive from performing their civic duty. We distinguish between two aspects of this type of utility, intrinsic satisfaction from behaving in accordance with a norm and extrinsic incentives to comply, and test the effects of priming intrinsic motives and applying varying degrees of extrinsic pressure. A large-scale field experiment involving several hundred thousand registered voters used a series of mailings to gauge these effects. Substantially higher turnout was observed among those who received mailings promising to publicize their turnout to their household or their neighbors. These findings demonstrate the profound importance of social pressure as an inducement to political participation.
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subjectAnalysis ; Civic duty ; Compliance ; Data analysis ; Elections ; Electoral behaviour ; Enforcement ; Experiments ; Field work ; Group pressure ; Households ; Hypotheses ; Incentives ; Influence ; Mailing lists ; Mailings ; Neighborhoods ; Participation ; Political aspects ; Political behavior ; Political Participation ; Political systems ; Political theory ; Primary elections ; Public records ; R&D ; Research & development ; Self-interest ; Social aspects ; Social networks ; Social norms ; Social Pressure ; Social psychology ; Studies ; U.S.A ; Voter behavior ; Voter registration ; Voter Turnout ; Voters ; Voting ; Voting Behavior ; Voting turnout
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notesThe authors are grateful to the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University and to Practical Political Consulting, which funded components of this research but bear no responsibility for the content of this report. Special thanks go to Mark Grebner of Practical Political Consulting, who designed and administered the mail program studied here. This research was reviewed and approved by the Yale Human Subjects Committee.
abstractVoter turnout theories based on rational self-interested behavior generally fail to predict significant turnout unless they account for the utility that citizens receive from performing their civic duty. We distinguish between two aspects of this type of utility, intrinsic satisfaction from behaving in accordance with a norm and extrinsic incentives to comply, and test the effects of priming intrinsic motives and applying varying degrees of extrinsic pressure. A large-scale field experiment involving several hundred thousand registered voters used a series of mailings to gauge these effects. Substantially higher turnout was observed among those who received mailings promising to publicize their turnout to their household or their neighbors. These findings demonstrate the profound importance of social pressure as an inducement to political participation.
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doi10.1017/S000305540808009X
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