Presentation on theme: " There is considerable concern, albeit debated, that Americans have become more politically disengaged since 1960s (2000, 2004 and 2008 voter turnouts."— Presentation transcript:
There is considerable concern, albeit debated, that Americans have become more politically disengaged since 1960s (2000, 2004 and 2008 voter turnouts notwithstanding), with greatest concern focused on young Americans. Young Americans appear to be more civic than political, preferring park clean ups, tutoring, and cancer walks to voting, news reading, and political party participation (Zukin et al. 2006, Wattenberg 2008).
More Americans pursuing higher education. The percentage of Americans completing four years of college or more grew from 11% in 1970 to 30% in 2009, per the U.S. Census Bureau. College education has considerable impact not only on students’ future income and occupation, but identity, values, and relation to others and the world (Pascarella &Terenzini 2005). Yet there is still relatively little research on the political engagement of college students, despite their growing numbers and unusual situation, living with people of same age, occupation, and for many, with the choice of whether to vote at college or in their hometown (Niemi & Hanmer 2010).
Education is typically the most powerful demographic determinant of political engagement (Verba, Schlozman & Brady 1995). Yet paradoxically, as education levels have risen over the last several decades, political engagement has generally declined, especially among the young*. Fortunately, there is evidence that civic education can boost political engagement and understanding (Niemi & Junn 1998, Galston 2001, Torney-Purta 2002). But what kind of political education works best?
Over the last decade, a growing body of experimental studies devoted to measuring the effects of different campaign methods on voting rates have found that door-to-door, face-to-face mobilization is one of the most cost effective methods (Green & Gerber 2008)*. Few experimental studies have been conducted on college campuses to test the impact of different mobilization methods on student voter turnout **.
Given the significant growth in college student populations, the formative role of college, relatively low and declining youth political engagement, and the potential of face-to-face mobilization, we undertook a field experiment at Stetson University to test if trained students could boost their peers’ voter turnout in the 2010 mid-term elections.
A university in four central Florida locations: Gulfport (Stetson Law School), Tampa (Law Center), Celebration (graduate programs), and DeLand (main campus). DeLand campus: Between Orlando and Daytona Beach. About 2,200 undergraduates, majority from Florida.
DeLand: Seat of Volusia County government. Volusia: one of the counties at the center of the 2000 Bush-Gore election debacle. Central Florida: The battleground of the battleground state of Florida. Florida: 4 th biggest in population, but biggest battleground state in the nation, and just got bigger: 29 EC votes next to Ohio’s 18.
Course title: Community Organizing for Social Change (COSC). Course purpose: Students learn about community organizing (recruiting, canvassing, fundraising, media outreach, GOTV, etc.) through reading, writing, lecture and practice in a field campaign. Spring 2009: campus deliberative poll: how can we make a Stetson education more affordable? Fall 2010: student voter mobilization campaign: can students increase voter turnout among their peers through door-to-door canvassing? Fall 2010 course students: 13 undergraduates (9 male, 4 female), most of whom had no prior political organizing experience*.
Population: Stetson University undergraduates living in 11 campus dorms, excluding off-campus students and Greeks living in Greek housing*.
Rather than randomly select students, we worked closely with Stetson Housing to randomly (by coin toss) select the treatment and control floors within each of the 11 dorms. We did so in order to avoid the “spillover risk” that control group students living next to treatment group students would be influenced by the treatment. To further minimize spillover risk, we kept one hall or floor between the treatment and control floors.
Our 13 student canvassers, randomly assigned to the 11 dorms in 5 pairs plus 1 group of 3, conducted 4 “dorm walks” during the 3 weeks prior to election day (Nov. 2). On the final dorm the student canvassers left or handed treatment group students a half-sheet announcing the election date, time, place, and urging students to vote given central Florida’s political significance.
Student canvassers were instructed to: 1) Ask: “Are you planning to vote in this year’s elections? [Whether yes or no] What issues do you care about?” 2) Discuss: The issues question was intended to engage students in political conversation given evidence that political conversation (not just information transfer) appears to boost turnout (Green & Gerber 2008). Canvassers were urged to use three documents in discussion with students: (a) League of Women Voters 2010 election voter guide, (b) “6 Reasons Why You Should Vote in DeLand,” and (c) “15 Ways ‘Local’ Government Affects Stetson Students’ Lives.” 3) Ask: “[If student plans to vote] Would you like a ride or walk to the polls?” Canvassers noted those students who wanted a ride or walk, and scheduled a time and date.
Overall Sample 574 students ▪The overall sample was representative of the Stetson student body on gender, race/ethnicity, Pell Grant receipt, and the proportion who were first generation students, and Greek students. ▪148 out-of-state and international students were excluded from the analysis. Control Group 209 students Experimental Group 217 students ▪132 students (61%) successfully contacted
Did face to face mobilization increase turnout? Turnout should be significantly higher in the treatment group than the control group. Dependent Variable ▪Did the student cast a ballot in the November 2010 Midterm Election? ▪Florida Voter History Files
For student activists: While the turnout boost from canvassing is marginal, door-to-door canvassing may mean the difference between victory and defeat, especially in close municipal or county races (in mid- term elections) that affect students’ college lives. For voting advocates: Our experiment confirms the marginal value of door-to-door canvassing. But for those aiming to substantially boost student turnout, canvassing may be a relatively inefficient investment of time and effort, especially given students’ transitory campus residence.
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