Reminding young people of their voter registration deadline

Posted by chrisken on May 22, 2008

This entry is cross-posted from Rock the Vote's blog.

Thousands of people download voter registration forms every day from Rock the Vote, but they don't necessarily know the voter registration deadline for their state. We're all busy and it can sometimes take people a few days or weeks before they print and mail the registration form. One of the programs we've been testing at Rock the Vote is the use of text messages to remind young people of their registration deadline. Our early evaluation results from the primaries indicate that these SMS reminders boosted registration rates of our registrant list by about 4% points!

In Pennsylvania 68.4% of the treatment group was registered compared to 64.5% of the control group, so the text message reminder increased registration rates there by about 3.9 percentage points. In Indiana the reminder boosted registration by about 4.1% points. When we combine these two tests and add statistical controls we find that the average increase of 4.1% points is statistically significant (i.e. the increased registration is probably not due to random chance).

It appears that text message voter registration reminders can have a big impact on motivating people to send in their registration forms, presumably because voter registration deadlines are not well-known. This result is in line with related research conducted in 2006 which found that text messages were an effective Get Out the Vote (GOTV) tactic - increasing turnout by about 3% points among new registrants.

Want to translate your mobile list into political power? Make sure they're registered to vote and send them a reminder of their state's registration deadline. Then do a GOTV blast on Election Day.

Details on the Methodology: In order to test these reminders we take the list of people who have opted-in to our mobile program (powered by at&t) and randomly assign them to treatment and control groups, similar to a clinical drug trial. We send the text message reminder to the treatment group but not the control group, saying something like "Reminder: [your state]'s registration deadline is March X, so be sure to send in your registration form by then." Afterwards we look on the voter rolls and see if the treatment group is registered at a higher rate than the control group. If so, it means the program worked, but if they have about the same registration rate it may not be worth the cost of sending the text messages.

Rock the Vote

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