Mobilizing African-American Voters Using Direct Mail and Commercial Phone Banks: A Field Experiment
Last registered on May 10, 2016

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Mobilizing African-American Voters Using Direct Mail and Commercial Phone Banks: A Field Experiment
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0001230
Initial registration date
May 10, 2016
Last updated
May 10, 2016 9:11 PM EDT
Location(s)
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Columbia University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2000-09-01
End date
2000-12-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
This essay summarizes the results of a large-scale randomized experiment conducted during the 2000 election campaign by the NAACP National Voter Fund, which sought to mobilize African-American voters. Focusing solely on the direct mail and phone banking components of the NAACP-NVF campaign, this study examines the voting behavior of 980,208 participants residing in single-voter households, 1.7 percent of whom were randomly assigned to a control group. The experiment permits us to estimate (1) the extent to which the National Voter Fund’s phone calls and direct mail increased voter turnout and (2) the approximate cost per vote. Within this sample, the NVF’s two pieces of GOTV mail, three live phone calls, and two recorded phone calls had modest effects, generating approximately 7,100 additional votes at $158 per vote. The upper bound of a 90 percent confidence interval puts these figures at 16,214 additional votes at $69 per vote.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Green, Donald. 2016. "Mobilizing African-American Voters Using Direct Mail and Commercial Phone Banks: A Field Experiment." AEA RCT Registry. May 10. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/1230/history/8156
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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
Approximately one million registered African-American voters in ten states randomly assigned to treatment and control conditions. Treatment voters received up to five phone calls (three by actual African-American callers and two automated calls) and in some cases additional direct mail that encouraged turnout. While the phone calls were targeted to every treatment voter, the mailings targeted young and middle-aged voters who had abstained from voting during one or more recent elections.
Intervention Start Date
2000-10-10
Intervention End Date
2000-11-07
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Voter turnout
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Voter turnout information was collected from public voting records compiled by the Aristotle International organization.
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
The National Voter Fund purchased a database with information of 3.7 Million African-American voters, of which approximately 1 million voters, across ten states, were chosen as sample for the trial. 98.3 percent (approximately 963,500) were randomly assigned to receive mailings and phones calls, while the remaining 1.7 percent was randomly assigned to receive nothing (control).

Phone calls were made to the treatment group voters starting four weeks before, and including on, the November 7 election day. Voters were attempted to be called up to five times before election day, although the precise mix of calls and mail varied by state.

The direct mail was targeted to young voters who had abstained from voting in recent elections. Prior to random assignment, one third of the sample received pre-experimental mailers to weed out bad addresses. These mailers were sent with equal probability to treatment and control groups thus should not lead to bias in the findings. The experimental mailer focused on the issue of discrimination, featuring a white cop pulling over a black motorist, in order to get-out-the-vote.

Voter turnout data was collected from public records.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Simple random assignment implemented by the list vendor (under the researcher's supervision) that supplied names to the mail house and phone bank.
Randomization Unit
Individual voter
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
Study not clustered
Sample size: planned number of observations
980,208
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Control = 16,712
Phone treatment = 963,496

Eligibility for mail varied by state, age, and past vote history
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
N/A
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
Yes
Intervention Completion Date
November 07, 2000, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Yes
Data Collection Completion Date
December 31, 2000, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
Study not clustered
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
No
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
980,208
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
Control = 16,712 Treatment = 963,496
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
No
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers
Abstract
MOBILIZING AFRICAN-AMERICAN VOTERS USING DIRECT MAIL AND COMMERCIAL PHONE BANKS: A FIELD EXPERIMENT

This essay summarizes the results of a large-scale randomized experiment conducted during the 2000 election campaign by the NAACP National Voter Fund, which sought to mobilize African-American voters. Focusing solely on the direct mail and phone banking components of the NAACP-NVF campaign, this study examines the voting behavior of 980,208 participants residing in single-voter households, 1.7 percent of whom were randomly assigned to a control group. The experiment permits us to estimate (1) the extent to which the National Voter Fund’s phone calls and direct mail increased voter turnout and (2) the approximate cost per vote. Within this sample, the NVF’s two pieces of GOTV mail, three live phone calls, and two recorded phone calls had modest effects, generating approximately 7,100 additional votes at $158 per vote. The upper bound of a 90 percent confidence interval puts these figures at 16,214 additional votes at $69 per vote.
Citation
Green, Donald P. 2004. “Mobilizing African-American Voters Using Direct Mail and Commercial Phone Banks: A Field Experiment.” Political Research Quarterly 57(2): 245-255.