A new study out of Denmark shows that GOTV text messages increase voter turnout. The report analyzed four SMS studies with over 300,000 participants, and discovered that text messages increased turnout by an average of 0.74 percentage points.
Additionally, the study found that “messages delivered before Election Day … have a higher effect than those delivered on Election Day.”
Authors Yosef Bhatti and colleagues wanted to examine GOTV tactics as voters shift towards mobile devices for their primary means of communication. Established GOTV methods like canvassing, mailings, and phone calls were all well-researched. But there was little data to support strategy “as the campaign moves from the voter’s mailbox and front door to her inbox and front pocket.”
The authors note three main reasons why text messages have so much potential:
- “They are noticeable reminders in the sense that voters are used to paying attention to messages they receive to their cell phones, whereas leaflets, mailing or phone calls might be more likely to be discounted or ignored.”
- “They hold potential as a low cost mean of communicating directly to the voters.”
- “They do not contain the same risk of wasting resources trying to contact voters as phone calls or door-to-door canvassing do.”
In a packed primary season, the study notes, voters are used to filtering out information. Text message reminders work so well because voters will pay attention to the little buzz in their pocket or purse.
The report also had some interesting conclusions about message content and frequency. Sending one message was just as effective as sending multiple messages, and “variations in message content did not cause statistically significant differences in turnout.”
It matters less what you’re saying, or how often you’re saying it – than that you’re saying something at all.
If you’re interested in launching a GOTV effort, don’t wait until the last minute. It takes time to build a list of people who you’d be messaging. And as the Danish study shows, you don’t want to wait until Election Day if you want the biggest impact.