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Updated 10:00 AM September 21, 2007
 

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Text messages encourage young voters to cast their ballots

Related links:
Department of Political Science: polisci.lsa.umich.edu
Student PIRGs' New Voters Project: www.newvotersproject.org
Working Assets: www.workingassets.com

Did U vote 2day?

Young voters who were sent text message reminders to vote were significantly more likely to vote than those who didn't receive such a message, according to a new study by U-M and Princeton University.

The findings indicate that sending a text message reminder to vote the day before elections provided a 4-percent boost in youth voter turnout rates in 2006.

"Young voters are more likely than older voters to rely exclusively on mobile technology as a primary means of communication," says Allison Dale, the study's co-author and a doctoral student in the Department of Political Science. "Political campaigns and voter mobilization groups must re-evaluate how they connect with this segment of voters who aren't reachable through conventional landline and U.S. mail outreach."

The study used voter registration data from the Student Public Interest Research Group's New Voters Project — a non-profit, non-partisan youth voter mobilization effort — and Working Assets Wireless, a wireless telephone company.

"The youth vote matters — 18- to 31-year-olds will represent more than one-third of the electorate by 2015 — and what this study shows is that we have another powerful tool in our toolkit to turn them out to the polls," says Ellynne Bannon, director of the Student PIRGs' New Voters Project in Washington, D.C.

On the eve of the election in November 2006, researchers sent text message voting reminders to more than 4,000 young voters with mobile phone numbers chosen at random from a pool of more than 8,000 young people who had recently registered to vote. After the elections, all 8,000 plus records were matched against voter files to determine which of the registrants had voted.

Other key findings include:

• Of the different text message reminders tested, a to-the-point reminder to vote was most effective, with a 5-percent boost.

• In a follow up survey, 59 percent of the text message recipients reported that the reminder was helpful, while 1 percent reported being less likely to vote because of receiving a text message.

• Hispanic students had especially positive feelings about the reminders.

• At just $1.56 per additional vote generated, text messaging is extremely cost effective.

Researchers found minimal backlash associated with voter text messages — only 10 percent of the respondents had a negative reaction. In addition, the young voters are less concerned about the message quality than the use of an outreach strategy that accommodates a mobile lifestyle, Dale says.

"This research demonstrates that young voters want to use technology to communicate with political organizations, and that these new forms of communication are powerful tools for increasing turnout," she says.

Dale collaborated on the study with Aaron Strauss, a doctoral candidate at Princeton's Department of Politics.

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