I am receiving notices from comrades planning to travel to Batley & Spen to help Labour’s ground campaign. I wish them well. It’s part of Momentum’s mythology that they almost won it for Labour in 2017 with the new ground campaign but how useful is it?

There’s probably something to learn from the London Elections earlier this year and I concentrated on my ward earlier this year.

Common wisdom is that it makes between 2% and 6% difference, but here are some papers that suggest differently.

This is based on US field work, The Minimal Persuasive Effects of Campaign Contact in General Elections: Evidence from 49 Field Experiments by Kalla & Brookman. This is a publisher landing page with an abstract, and this, Most Campaign Outreach Has Zero Effect on Voters is a review in the Atlantic. It may be a mistake to draw too much from this, as the Atlantic Review suggests that GOTV is useful, it’s just that persuasion is a problem.

Here’s the citation for Kalla and Brookman.

KALLA, J., & BROOCKMAN, D. (2018). The Minimal Persuasive Effects of Campaign Contact in General Elections: Evidence from 49 Field Experiments. American Political Science Review,112(1), 148-166. doi:10.1017/S0003055417000363

When I wrote this, What does “system update required” say about Labour’s IT?, I suggested that contact creator is a bit crap now and that other parties are open sourcing their voter id/gotv software. My IS strategy is to only build what gives you competitive advantage.

See also,

Bailey, M. A., Hopkins, D. J., & Rogers, T. (2016). Unresponsive and Unpersuaded: The Unintended Consequences of a Voter Persuasion Effort. Political Behavior. Another paper suggesting minimal effect.

Cardy, Emily Arthur. “An Experimental Field Study of the GOTV and Persuasion Effects of Partisan Direct Mail and Phone Calls.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 601, 2005, pp. 28–40. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/25046123. Accessed 8 Aug. 2023. Cardy suggests that internet assets help first time voters.

Townsley, J. (2018). Is it worth door-knocking? Evidence from a United Kingdom-based Get Out The Vote (GOTV) field experiment on the effect of party leaflets and canvass visits on voter turnout. Political Science Research and Methods, 1-15. doi:10.1017/psrm.2018.39. This paper, is exceptionally well cross referenced, the conclusion, is that leaflets are good, canvassing has very little effect, even on turnout. This was based on a LibDem cmapaign in 2017, and concludes that leaflets work, face to face contact less so.

Chaulk, K. (2019). Campaigning for the Future: Voter Turnout and the Effectiveness of Campaigns., from the abstract, @semanticscholar, “internet usage increased the probability of voting whereas canvassing and social media did not have significant effects.”

Gerber A & Green D (2000) The effects of canvassing, telephone calls, on direct mail on voter turnout: a field experiment. American political science review Vol 94, No 3 pp653– 663; the argue that direct canvassing impact is substantial, direct mail less so, and phone banking negligible. .

However, this commentary, Lessons from GOTV experiments, from Yale, uses techniques from Gerber and Green, and concludes that personalisation is key, they question the effectiveness of mass email, social networks are a powerful positive, quality, timing and delivery are important, maybe more so than content, the jury is out on phone banks, and mass media is important, but we don’t know how much.

Pär Nyman, 2017, Door-to-door canvassing in the European elections: Evidence from a Swedish field experiment, Electoral Studies, Volume 45, 2017, Pages 110-118, ISSN 0261-3794, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.electstud.2016.12.002. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261379416302748)
Abstract: In this paper I report the results from a door-to-door canvassing experiment conducted in Sweden during the 2014 European elections. The canvassing was performed by members of the Social Democratic Party and the experiment closely resembles the partisan nature of most mobilizing campaigns in Europe. The paper is one of the first to provide causal evidence for the mobilizing effectiveness of canvassing outside the United States. Living in a household that was visited by canvassers increases the probability of voting by 3.6 percentage points. This effect is entirely driven by estimates twice as large for occasional and first-time voters.

This is not conclusive, although things change, and where the research is done is almost certainly a relevant factor. Gerber & Green suggest that face-2-face is declining in effectiveness.

Dave Politics , ,

2 Replies

  1. I added the comment and xref to What does “system update required” say about Labour’s IT?, in it I suggested that contact creator is a bit crap now and that other parties are open sourcing their voter id/gotv software.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.