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Noncoercive Mobilization in State-Controlled Elections: An Experimental Study in Beijing
Last registered on June 11, 2016

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Noncoercive Mobilization in State-Controlled Elections: An Experimental Study in Beijing
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0001233
Initial registration date
June 11, 2016
Last updated
June 11, 2016 8:01 PM EDT
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Columbia University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Ph.D., Political Science, Yale University
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2003-11-01
End date
2003-12-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
China has gradually introduced a limited degree of democratization to its system of local governance, permitting self-nominated candidates for People’s Congress to campaign on their own behalf. Liberalization of elections has also meant that voters are less likely to be coerced into voting by their work groups. What are the likely consequences of liberalization for voter turnout rates in the future? The authors examine the effects of a noncoercive get-out-the-vote drive in one of the most highly liberalized electoral districts in China. A field experiment was conducted in a Peking University precinct during the 2003 election. Thousands of student voters were randomly assigned to control and treatment groups, the latter receiving encouragement to participate through door-to-door canvassing. These noncoercive mobilization efforts are found to be highly effective in raising voter turnout, suggesting that tactics used in open electoral systems may buoy voter turnout rates even as coercive mobilization tactics disappear.
Registration Citation
Citation
Green, Donald and Mei Guan. 2016. "Noncoercive Mobilization in State-Controlled Elections: An Experimental Study in Beijing." AEA RCT Registry. June 11. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.1233-1.0.
Former Citation
Green, Donald and Mei Guan. 2016. "Noncoercive Mobilization in State-Controlled Elections: An Experimental Study in Beijing." AEA RCT Registry. June 11. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/1233/history/8752.
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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
The experimental intervention consisted of door-to-door canvassing by undergraduate students in Peking University dorms encouraging fellow students to vote by delivering one of two messages: (1) emphasizing civic duty and the importance of voting for democracy in China or (2) same prologue as message 1 but added that there were a number of self-nominated candidates including students from Peking University. At the end of the message, canvassers mentioned the time and polling location and left a leaflet with the same message as the verbal script. If no one was available in the dorm room the leaflet was slipped under the door. Control dorm rooms received neither canvassing nor leaflet.
Intervention Start Date
2003-12-01
Intervention End Date
2003-12-10
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Voter turnout
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Voter turnout was assessed by watching voters sign in at the polling places on election day. The sign-in sheets served as the basis for coding each person’s participation.
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Peking University constitutes three precincts of Beijing, and voters are made of up faculty, student and staff of the university. The election results for one of the precincts are used in this experiment. A list of all registered voters in the precinct was collected and the names of non-students were removed, leaving a sample of 4,034 undergraduate and master’s students. Typically four to six students share a dorm room in Peking University. Treatment was clustered at the dorm room level since a canvassing message delivered to one student in a room would likely be passed on to the non-treated students as well. Thus all students in a single room are exposed to the same treatment. Rooms were randomly assigned to one of three groups: control or one of two treatments. The canvassing was done only two days before the election to minimize infiltration of the message to control voters.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Conducted by computer generated random numbers
Randomization Unit
Dorm room
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
1004 dorm rooms
Sample size: planned number of observations
4,024 students
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Treatment 1: 337 dorm rooms, 1340 students
Treatment 2: 333 dorm rooms, 1350 students
Control: 334 dorm rooms, 1334 students
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
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
December 10, 2003, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Yes
Data Collection Completion Date
December 31, 2003, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
1004 dorm rooms
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
4022 students
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
Treatment 1: 1338 students Treatment 2: 1350 students Control: 1334 students
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers
Abstract
NONCOERCIVE MOBILIZATION IN STATE-CONTROLLED ELECTIONS: AN EXPERIMENTAL STUDY IN BEIJING

China has gradually introduced a limited degree of democratization to its system of local governance, permitting self-nominated candidates for People’s Congress to campaign on their own behalf. Liberalization of elections has also meant that voters are less likely to be coerced into voting by their work groups. What are the likely consequences of liberalization for voter turnout rates in the future? The authors examine the effects of a noncoercive get-out-the-vote drive in one of the most highly liberalized electoral districts in China. A field experiment was conducted in a Peking University precinct during the 2003 election. Thousands of student voters were randomly assigned to control and treatment groups, the latter receiving encouragement to participate through door-to-door canvassing. These noncoercive mobilization efforts are found to be highly effective in raising voter turnout, suggesting that tactics used in open electoral systems may buoy voter turnout rates even as coercive mobilization tactics disappear.
Citation
Guan, Mei, and Donald P. Green. 2006. "Non-Coercive Mobilization in State-Controlled Elections: An Experimental Study in Beijing." Comparative Political Studies 39(10): 1175-1193.