Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Voter Turnout will the politics in play affect if people vote?

There is a great deal of research into what gets people out to vote and what does not get people out to vote. Here is some research from George Washington University in the US and Elections Canada that I found interesting.

 Election Canada in its reports says "Important attitudinal and behavioural factors in voting/not voting include: feelings of inefficacy; civic duty and political interest; and perception of the effectiveness of the vote.

People are less likely to cast a ballot if they feel they have no influence over government actions, do not feel voting is an essential civic act, or do not feel the election is competitive enough to make their votes matter to the outcome, either at the national or the local constituency level."

Elections Canada goes on to say, "Much of the data explored in this report leads to the conclusion that voting rates will likely continue to decline in Canada. The voting rates of generations entering the electorate in the last two decades, and particularly since 1993, are substantially lower than those of previous generations. While “life cycle” effects help to increase the initial low participation rate of all generations, they have not brought those who became eligible during the 1980s or later up to the participation levels of earlier entrants. There has been, according to the authors, a long-term secular decline in the electoral participation of successive generations of Canadians. An effective response to this trend will require more than short-term, small-scale reform measures."

With all of the problems in the Senate and with the perception that the government cannot be trusted, the majority of Canadians attribute the turnout decline to negative public attitudes toward the performance of the politicians and political institutions involved in federal politics. 

The Elections Canada report goes on to say, The objects of perceived public displeasure run the complete gamut of personnel and institutions, but the most prominently mentioned were “politicians” and “the government”, general terms which indicate the broad nature of the attitudes people ascribe to others.  
The lodestones of discontent are politicians and the government. There is a widespread perception that politicians are untrustworthy, selfish, unaccountable, lack credibility, are not true to their word, etc. Similarly, the government, sometimes with a capital “G” and sometimes without, betrays the people’s trust, and accomplishes little. Candidates are mentioned frequently, because the question asked specifically about the turnout decline, thereby raising the election context. As one might expect, they are perceived to have the same faults as “politicians”. Political parties are singled out as well, because some attributed the lowered voting rate to the difficulties people might have in finding any good choices, or in distinguishing between the parties that do exist. And some said that potential voters have difficulty in relating to the issues brought forward by the parties at election time, or sometimes that the proposed policies are  misguided.

Other reasons for not voting are:
Personal/administrative. The first two components of this issue are: lack of information about the polling and not being on the list of electors, are clearly administrative in nature. 

The third, illness, and the fourth, absence from home, are connected in the sense that, had it been convenient for such people to cast their ballots under the circumstances of being confined by sickness or being away from the place they would normally be expected to vote, they might well have voted. Saying this is not to imply that Elections Canada is at fault for not collecting their votes; it simply means that under ideal administrative arrangements, they might have voted.
A lack of interest. Many of those who did not vote because they felt the election was uninteresting, their vote unimportant, and the parties, candidates and issues unengaging. 

Name not on the voters list. Another predictive factor of importance is the one measuring administrative effects, namely the respondent having his/her name on the list of electors in 2000. . This factor is fourth in importance in explaining voter turnout in the 2000 election, but also seems to be measuring effects that were important in previous elections. It is actually the second strongest predictor of not voting in the previous election of 1997, as well as third in predicting voting frequency in the three elections.

Having a lower income: Higher income is associated with higher voting frequency.

Being new to Canada. as measured by whether respondents were born in this country or not, is associated with lower turnout. 

Geographical mobility. as measured by the length of residence in one’s current neighbourhood or community. 

Not being contacted by the parties or candidates. People who were contacted by the parties or the candidate had higher voter turnout then those who were not contacted.

The University of  George Washington shows how to reengage people in the voting process. Their research shows some of the effective ways to win voters back to the voting booth. Here are some of the results of their research:

The lesson learned is that today’s adults  are engaged and they will vote in higher numbers if they are asked.

Actual votes per contact will be higher when the contact is more personalized
and interactiveThe research shows that the most effective method of generating a new voter
is an in-person door knock by a peer. The next greatest impact was seen by phone banks with longer, chattier phone scripts or volunteers making the calls. Also, recent survey data by Young Voter Strategies shows that the online tools that are most effective are the ones where the young voter either opts-in to the conversation or gets to interact in some way.

People need nuts-and-bolts practical information about how to vote.And efforts that make voting more convenient are quite effective. So those measures such as restricting voters or in Canada using Robo Calls to mislead voters are very effective in turning people into non-voters.

The medium matters more than the message. To date, the growing body of experimental research has not found that any type of message works better than another. It is more about making a quality contact. Several studies have varied the message to compare partisan versus
nonpartisan or negative versus positive content. None of these studies have shown a significant impact difference between messages

Young people are easy to incorporate into your lists and turnout programs. Excluding young voters from your turnout efforts is a mistake. The research findings all demonstrate that young people are just as responsive to voter contact as older voters. While voters under 30 respond to turnout tactics at the same rates as older voters, in some communities they are more difficult to reach, so targeting must take this into consideration. Efforts in ethnic communities found young people as easy to reach as older voters, and student areas and apartment building have dense residences that lead to very high contact rates.

Ethnic and immigrant youth are cost-effective targets. When targeting ethnic or immigrant communities, it is cost-effective to target young voters, particularly because there is less need to translate materials into languages other than English. When working in ethnic or immigrant communities, be sure to ask all voters you contact to volunteer to reach out to their neighbors: research also indicates that in ethnic and immigrant communities the most trusted messenger is someone who looks like the potential voter. (Michelson 2004) This is the case with most voters, but even more so in these communities

The good news is that initial mobilization makes for repeat voters. Successful mobilization in one election raises people's propensity to vote in subsequent elections. Parties, candidates and interest groups should expect long-term benefits from mobilizing voters today.
In one study, the authors found that 50 percent of the effect of canvassing during the 1998 New Haven election persisted in 1999, even though there were no additional efforts to get out the vote. (Gerber, Green, and Shachar 2003) 

Another influential study (based on survey research, not experiments) found that once people begin to vote, their propensity to participate in future elections rises. (Plutzer 2002) 

Finally, a new study that tracked 10 canvassing experiments over time indicate that voting is habit- forming. The study found that if you get a person to vote in one election, they will be e 29 percentage points more likely to vote in the next election. (Nickerson 2004)

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