Posts Tagged ‘voting’

Who/what nags better: Your cell phone or your mother?

January 13, 2010

A study by four Ivy League economists—Dean Karlan of Yale, Sendhil Mullainathan and Margaret McConnell of Harvard, and Jonathan Zinman of Dartmouth—has shown that gentle text-based nagging can induce people to save more. As part of a study, they worked with banks in the emerging markets of Bolivia, Peru, and the Philippines. When people opened accounts and encouraged to commit to saving certain amounts, the banks randomly assigned some customers to receive reminders via text. Some notes reminded customers that they had focused on a particular goal, others reminded savers that there were incentives for saving (like higher interest rates), and some did both. The conclusion: “Individuals who received monthly reminders saved 6 percent more than individuals who did not. They were also 3 percent more likely to reach their savings goals by the end of the savings program.” The most effective form of messaging was one that reminded people both that they needed to save in order to reach a personal goal and that there were incentives for doing so. Such nudges boosted savings by nearly 16 percent.

This paragraph comes from a Slate piece with the headline, “The Jewish Mother in Your Cell Phone.” The real question should be, what if, instead of your cell phone, your actual mother, or your father for that matter, reminded you to save money once a month? Which nagging would beef up your bank account better? As research into boosting savings progresses, more of these nudges will have to be put head-to-head.

This sort of process has occurred over the last decade in political research on one seminal question: How do you get people to vote? For instance, in-person contacts increase voting more than direct mailings, which work better than phone calls. Publicizing one’s voting history (or that of their neighbors) boosts voting more than a generic reminder to fulfill your civic duty.

Two nudging conversations with Richard Thaler

April 10, 2009

1) Richard Thaler talked with NPR’s Morning Edition about whether government messages about the economy affect consumer behavior? Does economic cheerleading make a difference? (The clip runs about 4 minutes.)

A listener then posts this terrific haiku that sums up Thaler’s message:

In debt? Thrift will help.
Got money? Spend it freely.
Good for all of US.

(Please note that when read aloud, US is one syllable. On paper of course, the implied U.S. is also there.)

2) Thaler takes part in an interesting To the Point roundtable on the place of Nudge and behavioral economics in the Obama campaign and administration. One example is advice from behavioralists to campaign field directors in the final weeks of the campaign was to tweak the voter message to say, “A record turnout is expected.” The most effective motivator for getting people to vote is the expectation that others will vote too. Also taking part to discuss criticisms from the left and right were writers from Time, the New Republic, and Reason magazine. (The conversation lasts about 35 minutes. It starts at about 7 minutes and 45 seconds.)

Odd polling locations

December 4, 2008

We have evidence that there are strange polling effects when voters cast ballots in schools and churches. What about gymnasiums, art museums, pizza parlors, and laundromats? See here for a slide show of odd polling locations.

Hat tip: Jeff Zemla

The bottom line on getting people to vote

November 4, 2008

DANIEL KAHNEMAN:You call and ask people ahead of time, “Will you vote?”. That’s all. “Do you intend to vote?”. That increases voting participation substantially, and you can measure it. It’s a completely trivial manipulation, but saying ‘Yes’ to a stranger, “I will vote” …

NATHAN MYHRVOLD: But to Elon’s point, suppose you had the choice of calling up and saying, “Are you going to vote?”, so you prime them to vote, versus exhorting them to vote.

KAHNEMAN: The prime could very well work better than the exhortation because exhortation is going to induce resistance, whereas the prime‚ the mild embarrassment causes you to make what feels like a commitment, and the commitment, if it’s sufficiently precise, is going to have an effect on behavior.

RICHARD THALER: If you ask them when they’re going to vote, and how they’re going to get there, that increases voting.

KAHNEMAN: And where.

From the transcript of a conversation featuring Daniel Kahneman on “Two Big Things Happening in Psychology Today.”

Blame it on the polling location

July 3, 2008

Back in May, we blogged about some strange voting findings, and referenced a study showing that the polling place exerts a strange influence on the voting decision.

People who vote in schools are more likely to support propositions for more education funding. (Jonah Berger, Marc Meredith, and S. Christian Wheeler) used 2000 data from an Arizona referendum proposing to raising the state sales tax from 5.0 percent to 5.6 percent with the money going to education. By a count of 55 percent to 53.09 percent, voters in schools were more likely to support this initiative than those in other polling places like churches or community centers.

The three authors have just published a follow-up in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Continue reading the post here.

Another voter turnout finding

May 20, 2008

This one is perhaps less strange than the five posted earlier today. People who register to vote later are more likely to vote. James Gimpel, Daron Shaw, and Joshua Dyck looked at 2000 data from six states to uncover the following result:

People who registered to vote the week of the registration deadline were 16 percent more likely to vote than those who registered one year from the deadline.

This finding makes sense on the logic that late registers’ interest in the campaign leads them to sign-up to vote. Early registers, on the other hand, may be more committed to voting in general, but are less inspired to vote in any single particular election.

Of the late registrants, young adults were 15 percent less likely to vote than older adults, and women were more likely than men to turn out.

A surprising result from the study – again related to the asymmetrical effects of partisanship – is that late registering Republicans voted at about twice the rate of late registering Democrats.

Strange findings about voting for primary day

May 20, 2008

In celebration of primary day in Kentucky and Oregon, the Nudge blog offers five strange findings about voting that are not explained by the usual – individually rational – factors driving voter turnout and vote choice, which are income, education, party identification, ideological leaning.

Continue reading the post here.

Neighborly nudges to do your civic duty

April 18, 2008

Campaign strategists and political scientists studied how to nudge people to vote for more than a century. The strategists have concentrated on nudging (and shoving) people to vote for a particular candidate. The political scientists, trying to stay detached from partisanship, have studied how to nudge people to fulfill their civic duty go to the polls on election day. In the last few years the cutting edge of political science research on voter mobilization has involved a method known as a field experiment. Originally pioneered in the 1920s and recently re-pioneered by Alan Gerber and Don Green at Yale, field experiments involve randomly sending letters, airing radio and print advertisements, phoning homes, or sending canvassers door-to-door making personal pitches. The random assignment of these various forms of voter outreach is the crucial piece of field experiments – call it the “magic” – that enables researchers to calculate clean estimates for how much these nudges affect voter decisions.

Continue reading the post here.


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