Dean's Lecture

Does Email Suppress Turnout on Election Day? Experimental Evidence from the 2016 General Election

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Wednesday, January 30, 2019
12:40 pm to 2:00 pm
202 South Hall
Michael Rivera

Live Stream: Does Email Suppress Turnout on Election Day? Experimental Evidence from the 2016 General Election

Live Stream: Does Email Suppress Turnout on Election Day? Evidence from the 2016 Election

Can inexpensive, impersonal methods of contact such as unsolicited email increase voter turnout? While email has potential advantages as a mobilization tool, existing experimental work suggests it is relatively ineffective. In this paper, we examine the effect of email messages sent from an academic researcher on voters’ decision to turn out to the polls on election day. We use publicly available data to randomly expose a subset of Florida voters to email messages that encourage them to vote in the 2016 general election. Consistent with previous research, our topline finding is that none of the mobilization approaches we tested increased turnout. More importantly, we find a pronounced demobilizing effect among minority voters. Our findings encourage campaigns to think critically about the use of massive impersonal mobilization methods.

Mike Rivera is a visiting professor at the UC Berkeley School of Information. He teaches Research Design and Applications for Data and Analysis in the MIDS program. He received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, San Diego. Before Berkeley, he taught at the University of Texas at Austin.

Rivera researches immigration policy, political representation, and American voter behavior. He is especially interested in how campaigns and non-partisan groups can use data science to increase turnout among minority and low propensity voters.

Last updated:

January 10, 2019