Welcome to the latest in my occasional series highlighting interesting findings from academic research. Today – the use of text messaging to raise turnout as studied in Moving the campaign from the front door to the front pocket: field experimental evidence on the effect of phrasing and timing of text messages on voter turnout by Yosef Bhatti, Jens Olav Dahlgaard, Jonas Hedegaard Hansen and Kasper M. Hansen (Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, Volume 27, Issue 3, 2017).
The short version: sending voters one text message out of the blue from a sender they did not have a prior affiliation with* raised turnout by three quarters of a percentage point in a series of trials in Denmark. Sending more than one message did not have an extra impact, whilst sending before polling day was better than sending on polling day. The content of the messages tested did not affect the result.
That scale of turnout increase was statistically robust but also fairly modest. However, what wasn’t tested was the impact on turnout of text messages from parties or candidates which those receiving the messages have some prior affinity for. It is plausible that messages from a ‘friendly’ source have a greater impact, and there’s some non-statistically rigorous evidence to support that from the experience of Liberal Democrats in the UK with using text messages to raise turnout amongst supporters.
* Something that would be legally problematic in the UK.