Does sending text messages raise turnout? Here’s some evidence

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 inĀ 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.

You can read the other posts in the Evidence-based campaigning: what the academic research says series here.

3 responses to “Does sending text messages raise turnout? Here’s some evidence”

  1. You need to educate the people on the local Party and Branch Executives about this. I knew this as a Lib Dem Newbie but when I tried to get my Campaign Manager to do it, she looked at me as though I have two heads!!!

  2. While increasing turnout is a good thing, does the study indicate whether those who responded by making the effort to go and vote actually voted for the the party whose message they received? I can well imagine some UK voters would go out and vote for a different party “to keep those b*****s out.”

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