How To Find & Mobilize Young Voters II Get Out The Vote

Originally posted on

Rock The Vote

Studies show that contact from campaigns significantly increases a young person’s likelihood of turning out to vote on Election Day. Plus, it’s cost-efficient and easy to integrate with your overall campaign strategy.

• A door knock can boost turnout by about 8 points for about $25 per additional vote.(26)
• A live phone call increases turnout by 3-5 points for $20-26 per additional vote.(27)
• A text message increases turnout by 3-4 points and can be very inexpensive.(28)
• Multiple contacts from a campaign can increase turnout by 10-14 percentage points.(29)

GOTV Tactics That Work

You can increase turnout by about 8 points among those contacted if you have face-toface contact with young adults before Election Day.

• Timing is important. A recent study shows that face-to-face contact increases turnout if done in the two weeks before the election, but not earlier than that.(30)

• Studies show that other young or older adults living with young people who are canvassed also vote at significantly higher rates (“spillover effect”).

• Make sure to include basic voting information when canvassing young adults, such as where and when to vote.

You can increase turnout by 3-5 percentage points among those contacted by reaching out to young voters through volunteer and paid phone-banks the week before the election.

• Calls should be made by a real person, not a computer.

• Callers should emphasize where and when to vote and the importance of having one’s voice heard.

• Keep the tone informal and chatty and more informational than partisan.

• The most effective time to call is from 6-9pm on weekdays, though weekend days can also be effective.

Combining a pledge to vote (either by phone or in person) with a follow-up get-out-the-vote phone call on Election Day can increase turnout by 11 percentage points.(31)

A 2006 test found a GOTV text message can increase young voter turnout by 4 percentage points.

• In the days leading up to an election, send a text message reminder to vote to those who have opted into receiving mobile updates from your campaign.

• Keep it simple. For example, use a message like: “hi Anne! Just a reminder that Tomorrow is Election Day. Please vote. –” (sample message from the 2006 Strauss/Dale study)

• Send messages close to Election Day, or on it. Messages more than a week out may be less effective.

• Bonus – texting is inexpensive. Depending on your system, you can send a text message GOTV reminder for as little as 5-10 cents.

Texting is a newly discovered successful GOTV tactic – more tips to come as we at Rock the Vote learn more.

How to find & mobilize Young Voters ii: get out the Vote GOTV tip: Keep Young People On yOUr lists One of the simplest things you can do is make sure to keep young adults on your walk and call lists. Vendors often take them off if they lack a recorded vote history – but keep them on and you can successfully turn out new, young voters using traditional campaign tactics.


The mainstay of campaigns – traditional advertising – can help get young people out to the polls.

• A 2004 study found that Rock the Vote’s pre-election ads increased turnout among young adults by 2 percentage points.(32) The cost per additional vote generated, according to the study, was $14.

• Other research indicates that TV, radio, and newspaper ads may have a small (1-2 point) positive impact on voter turnout.(33)

• Run ads where young voters will see and hear them: top-rated TV shows and networks for this demographic include Grey’s Anatomy, Ugly Betty, Sports center, Lost, the Daily Show, MTV, the CW and comedy central. Also run radio ads on local hip hop, indie rock, or top 40 stations.

While simply sending an email is not an effective GOTV tactic (see below), there are many ways the Internet can be part of an effective youth GOTV strategy. Some tips on how to do this:

• Information: Where to vote and what to bring is often confusing for a new voter. Make sure your website has all the basic information on how to vote on Election Day – polling locations, identification requirements, etc.

• Building Lists: A 2006 coordinated campaign creatively used social networks to identify new supporters: in 2006, the Minnesota Democratic Farm Labor Party had volunteers at 12 colleges and universities compile lists of potential supporters (based on profile information). the volunteers then matched those lists to campus directories and went door-to-door to get students registered. Later on, they did GOTV phone calls and door-knocks.

• Facebook Events: create an event on Facebook and other social networks for Election Day. Invite your friends and make sure to ask them to invite theirs. As more people RSVP to the event their friends will automatically be told about it, and you may be able to create a peer-to-peer GOTV strategy online.

GOTV Tactics That Don’t Work

Used for get-out-the-vote purposes, direct mail does not increase voter turnout among young adults. In general, direct mail, especially partisan mail, has a very minimal GOTV impact on voters of any age.(34) (Direct mail is, however, a cost-effective way to register young people to vote. See previous section.)

Get-out-the-vote robocalls do not increase young voter turnout, nor do they have much impact on turnout of voters of any age.(35) (Highquality live phone calls, as noted above, do have a significant impact.)

Email is a useful way to communicate with voters, but does not have a GOTV impact. You can send an email to all the people on your list reminding them to vote, but it doesn’t actually make them more likely to vote.(36) (Do note however, that email can be useful in disseminating voting information – polling place locators, election times, and ID requirements – in the days leading up to an election.)

(26) “Getting Out the Vote in Local Elections: Results from Six Door-to-Door canvassing Experiments,” Donald Green, Alan Gerber, and David Nickerson. Yale University, November 2003.

(27) “Getting Out the Youth Vote: Results from Randomized Field Experiments,” Donald Green and Alan Gerber, Yale University, December 29, 2001 and “Volunteer Phone calls can Increase turnout,” David Nickerson, American Politics Research. Vol 34(3): 271-292, 2006.

(28) “text Messaging as a Youth Mobilization tool,” Allison Dale and Aaron Strauss, April 2007.

(29) “Voter Registration and turnout Among college Students,” Richard Niemi and Michael hanmer. Prepared for the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia, PA, September 2006 and “the Effects of an Election Day Voter Mobilization campaign targeting Young Voters,” Donald Green and CIRCLE, September 2004.

(30) “Forget Me Not? the Importance of timing in Voter Mobilization,” David Nickerson. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia, PA, 2006.

(31) “The Effects of an Election Day Voter Mobilization campaign targeting Young Voters,” Green and CIRCLE, 2004.

(32) “Assessing the turnout Effects of Rock the Vote’s 2004 television commercials: A Randomized Field Experiment,” Donald Green and Lynn Vavreck. Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, April 2006.

(33) Get Out the Vote, by Donald Green and Alan Gerber. Pages 131-132. Brookings Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 2008.

(34) Ibid, page 69.

(35) Ibid, pages 82-83.

(36) “Does Email Boost turnout?” David Nickerson, Quarterly Journal of Political Science 2(4),

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