Experimental Design Details
This study will be conducted online from September 8 to October 19 (the deadline in California to register to vote for the 2020 U.S. General Election). Students in select University of California campuses will be invited to participate through behavioral science labs or email lists. There will be several rounds of the experiment. In each round, participants will take two surveys within 10 days: the Initial Survey and the Follow-up Survey. There are two types of participants: "Registrants" are those who have already registered to vote when they begin the study, and "Non-registrants" are those who have not.
The Initial Survey screens for eligibility to vote in California and to register online, and collects demographic information. All participants report their incentivized beliefs on their campus’s voter registration rate, which measures their perception of the norm. The Non-registrants then provide their willingness to pay (WTP) to (not) share their registration status with other participants. They are informed that if their status is shared, they may also receive an email from another participant about the election. To mitigate experimenter demand effects, the topic of the email (voter registration) is not mentioned. Their WTP responses, which are incentive-compatible under a standard multiple price list mechanism, capture the welfare cost of revealing to others that they have not registered to vote (a loss in social recognition). After the Initial Survey, selected Non-registrants are randomly matched to Registrants.
Follow-up Survey: Registrants
The Follow-up Survey is first sent to Registrants, who are shown the names and registration statuses of three other participants. They are first asked to characterize their relationship with each of the participants as Strangers, Acquaintances, Friends, or Close friends. The Registrants are told they may be randomly selected to email one of the three potential recipients. The purpose of the email will randomly differ between Registrants and can be one of two types. The “treatment” email pressures the recipient to register to vote (“Pressure Message”). The “control” email informs the recipient about legislative districts in California (“Info Message”).Registrants assigned the Pressure Message will only see Non-registrants as potential recipients. If the proportion of Registrants in the sample is greater than 75%, then Registrants assigned the Info Message may see a mix of Registrants and Non-registrants as potential recipients. Otherwise, they will only see Non-registrants as potential recipients. Registrants are shown a template of whichever message they were assigned, and are informed that if they are selected to send the message, they can edit it within general guidelines.
Registrants are also told that if they are selected to send the message, they will have to send it either directly or anonymously. A “Direct Message” must be sent by the Registrant from their own email account, while an “Anonymous Message” will be sent by the research team without mentioning the Registrant's name. For each of the three potential recipients, Registrants are shown whether they would have to send a Direct or Anonymous Message if they are selected to message that recipient. To summarize, the Pressure vs. Info Message condition varies between Registrants, while the Direct vs. Anonymous Message condition varies within Registrant.
For each of the three potential recipients, Registrants are asked on a 7-point Agree/Disagree Likert scale whether the recipient would like to receive a message from them. Then, they are asked the chances that the recipient registers to vote by the election (or for the Info Message condition, the chances that the recipient knows who their local representatives are) first if they do not send the message, and then if they do send the message. For Registrants assigned to the Pressure Message condition, all these beliefs elicitations are incentivized.
Next, the Registrants state their WTP to (not) send the email message to each recipient via a standard multiple price list mechanism that allows the WTP to range from -$7 to $7. For the Registrants who are selected to send the message, they must compose their message on the survey. For Direct Message senders, they must email their message (BCC’ing the research team to validate their complete participation) before finishing the study. For all other Registrants, they must send a confirmation email to the research team before submitting their responses. Figure 2 shows the assignment and interaction of Registrants and Non-registrants.
Follow-up Survey: Non-registrants
After the Registrants have taken the Follow-up Survey, the link is sent to Non-registrants. Non-registrants are asked whether they received an email about the election from another student participant. If they did, they are asked to describe the contents of the email, and then how much they liked/disliked receiving it on a 7-point Likert scale. If they were assigned to receive a Direct Message, they are asked whether the sender was a Stranger, Acquaintance, Friend, or Close Friend, or if they do not remember. Lastly, the Non-registrants may update their guesses on their campus’s registration rate.
Non-registrants' registration statuses and turnout in the election are tracked to assess the causal impact of receiving social pressure.