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This is a repost of a diary of mine from last July. But it's vital we remember that a simple wording change can dramatically boost voter turnout!

Share this startling new research with every progressive you know, especially those working in campaigns, and especially those working the GOTV effort in the last few days before an election. A simple change in wording, when taking a pre-election survey, can dramatically increase voter turnout. Presumably this can be used when working the phones for GOTV efforts.

Bryan and his team first sent out surveys to just 38 people prior to the 2008 presidential election. Half the group got a survey asking if it was important to vote, the other half got surveys asking if it was important to be a voter. 87.5 [percent] responded yes to the second question while only 55.6 [percent] did so with the first.

Feeling he was on to something, Bryan then set his sights higher, for his next experiment, he and his team sent surveys to 133 registered voters in California one day before the 2008 election. Afterwards, using voting records, he was able to ascertain that 82% of those who got the “vote” question actually voted, while 96% of the “voter” group did [actually vote].

The researcher is Christopher J. Bryan of Stanford, and his research was published yesterday in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Because the subjects of his initial surveys were all young (and Californian), Bryan expanded his pool:

[T]he team sent out surveys to 214 older registered voters from New Jersey just before their gubernatorial election, and found similar results; 90% for the “voter” group versus 79% for the “vote” group.

Bryan says this is the largest ever measured effect on voter turnout.

The GOP has been known for staying on message better than Democrats, but on this particular message, we need to change that starting right now. This has got to be the only wording we use in GOTV efforts and in media buys from now on. It's just too powerful to pass up.
NEVER say this: ALWAYS say this instead:
"It's important for you to vote." "It's important for you to be a voter."
"Are you going to vote on Tuesday?" "Are you going to be a voter on Tuesday?"
"Is there anything we can do to help you vote?" "Is there anything we can do to help you be a voter?"
"This new law would make it harder for you to vote." "This new law would make it harder for you to become a voter."
"The Republicans are threatening your right to vote." "The Republicans are threatening your right to be a voter."
If we ever need to be "on message" about anything, we just gotta be on message about this. A 10% to 15% increase in turnout for a tiny word change? Miracles don't come any cheaper.


Original update: Just saw this in the supplemental material for the paper: the actual questions asked in the surveys. Here's the list:

i) How important is it to you to (vote/be a voter) in (tomorrow’s/today’s) election?

ii) How much do you care about (voting/being a voter) in (tomorrow’s/today’s) election?

iii) How much do you want to (vote/be a voter) in (tomorrow’s/today’s) election?

iv) How personally relevant is it to you to (vote/be a voter) in (tomorrow’s/today’s) election?

v) How easy do you think it is to (vote/be a voter) in (tomorrow’s/today’s) election?

vi) How convenient do you think it is to (vote/be a voter) in (tomorrow’s/today’s) election?

vii) How consistent are your thoughts and feelings about (voting/being a voter) in (tomorrow’s/today’s) election?

viii) How clear are your thoughts and feelings about (voting/being a voter) in (tomorrow’s/today’s) election?

ix) To what extent are your thoughts about (voting/being a voter) in (tomorrow’s/today’s) election the same as your feelings about (voting/being a voter)?

x) To what extent are your thoughts about (voting/being a voter) in (tomorrow’s/today’s) election different from your feelings about (voting/being a voter)?

Originally posted to The Numerate Historian on Wed May 30, 2012 at 10:50 PM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive, Political Language and Messaging, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, and Progressive Hippie.

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