Can Voting Be Increased by Asking People if They Expect to Vote?
Your candidate's campaign has gone very well. You have heard wonderful
things from voters about the mailings and the TV ads. As a volunteer, you have
made many calls on behalf of the candidate. However, you are a little worried.
Tomorrow is the election, and you are concerned about voter turnout. It's
probably going to be a close election, and all the efforts may be in vain if voter
turnout is low. What can be done at this point? Perhaps supporters could receive
one last call the evening before the election. They could be asked whether they
expect to vote in the election.
In their second experiment, Greenwald, Carnot, Beach, and Young (1987)
investigated the influence of asking people if they expect to vote on actual voting
behavior. Undergraduate students who were registered to vote were called the
evening before the 1984 presidential election. The first two questions that all the
students were asked involved the location of the voting precinct and the times it
was open. Some students were asked a third question about whether they expect
to vote in the election. Other students were not asked whether they expect to vote.
Greewald et al. (1987) found that a greater percentage of people voted when
asked if they expect to vote than when not asked. The difference in the percentage
of people voting between these two conditions was greater than 20%. Thus, this
finding suggests that voting can be significantly increased simply by asking people if
they expect to vote!
This finding has important practical implications. Conceivably, it is possible that
calling a significant percent of supporters and asking them whether they expect to
vote could change an election outcome.
Greenwald, A.G., Carnot, C. G., Beach, R., & Young, B. (1987). Increasing
voting behavior by asking people if they expect to vote. Journal of Applied
Psychology, 72, 315-318.