TXT OUT THE VOTE: Text Messaging Increases Voter Turnout

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Sep 13, 2007

Text messaging works to get out the youth vote. Researchers from Princeton and Michigan Universities, together with the US Student Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) New Voter Project and Working Assets finally released a study of their text message mobilization efforts in the United States elections in November 2006. The fact sheet is here, the full study with the different forms of text reminders and outine of the methodology is attached.

The study found that text message reminders to new voters increased an individual’s likelihood of voting by 4.2 percentage points. This is an increase similar to "quality phone call" reminders but at a fraction of the cost, indicating that partisan and nonpartisan voter mobilization efforts need to urgently get on the mobile bandwagon.

On the day before the election in November 2006, researchers sent text message voting reminders to over 4,000 mobile phone numbers chosen at random from a pool of over 8,000 mostly young people who had completed voter registration applications.

After the election, participants were matched to voter records to determine if they had indeed voted in the election, and a sample was surveyed to gauge their reaction to the messages.

According to the fact sheet:

• Across the board, text message reminders increased the likelihood of an individual voting by 4.2 percentage points.

• Of the different messages tested, a short, to-the-point reminder was most effective, with a boost of nearly 5 percentage points.

• In a follow up survey, 59% of recipients reported that the reminder was helpful, versus only 23% who found it bothersome.

• Hispanics had especially positive feelings about the reminders.

• At just $1.56 per additional vote generated, text messaging was extremely cost effective in comparison to other methods.

By 2015 young voters will represent one-third of the U.S. Electorate and as such they’ll have the ability to shape key issues and the direction of the country. Research has also found that young people turn out in bigger numbers if they are asked to vote, and targeted by non-partisan and partisan voter mobilization efforts.

Text messagng is, of course, the ideal medium for getting out the vote. According to data from the project, a quarter of Americans under the age of 25 used a mobile phone as their only telephone in the first half of 2006 with the mobile-only population is projected to reach nearly 30 percent of the entire American public by the 2008 Presidential election. Text messaging is already widely used among young people as a form of communication, making it an ideal vehicle for timely information.

This is the first definitive study of its kind and we applaud the researchers in what looks like greater rigour in comparing actual voting behaviour as opposed to simply surveying recipients of text messages whether they voted.

We also like to see larger-scale studies not only in the United States but other countries. This initial evidence seems to indicate, however, that voter mobilization and get-out-the vote efforts need to immediately start taking mobile communications such as polling information and voting reminders into their repertoire to reach an increasingly mobile population. Of course, we here at MobileActive have been preaching this mantra for some time now!


Text_Mesaging_in_2006_Election_Field_Experiment-070828.pdf121.23 KB

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