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Middleton and Green on whether MoveOn influences turnout

Abstract: One of the hallmarks of the 2004 presidential election was the unusual emphasis on face-to-face voter mobilization, particularly face-to-face mobilization conducted within neighborhoods or social networks. Unlike previous studies of face-to-face voter mobilization, which have focused largely on nonpartisan campaigns conducted during midterm or local elections, this study assesses the effects of a multi-state campaign organized by MoveOn.org, an organization that allied itself with the Democratic Party in 2004 to aid presidential candidate John Kerry. A regression discontinuity analysis of 41,654 voters in nine swing states demonstrates that neighbor-to-neighbor mobilization substantially increased turnout during the 2004 presidential election. Contact with MoveOn volunteers increased turnout by approximately seven percentage-points. This finding corroborates experimental findings showing the effectiveness of door-to-door canvassing but contradicts results suggesting that such mobilization is ineffective in the context of high-salience elections.

Joel A. Middleton and Donald P. Green, “Do Community-Based Voter Mobilization Campaigns Work Even in Battleground States? Evaluating the Effectiveness of MoveOn’s 2004 Outreach Campaign,” unpublished paper. Available here.

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