Increasing the Effectiveness of Political Campaign Mail: A Field Experiment

Hello everyone! My name is Meg Schwenzfeier and I will be working on an honors thesis in Government this summer. Throughout my time at William & Mary, I have been fascinated with political campaigns and political science research, particularly the ways in which political science can improve and inform campaign efforts like canvassing, phone calling, and volunteer recruitment. For my honors thesis, I plan to conduct a field experiment to explore ways to increase the effectiveness of political campaign mail for infrequent voters.

Specifically, I will conduct a randomized field experiment to evaluate whether combining two direct mail techniques (both a social pressure and loss aversion appeal) will increase voter turnout in Virginia’s 2013 general election. I will be working with a local political campaign to contact voters and explore whether presenting infrequent voters with their voting histories as well as the consequences of their lack of participation will increase their turnout in the off-year election in November. I am excited to work on my thesis because I think my project could have important implications for future efforts to turn out infrequent voters and make government more representative.

Moving forward, I will be working with the campaign to determine exactly what access I will have to their voter database as well as how much control I can have over voter mailings, both of which will influence my research design. Once I finalize my research design, I will be able to create a list of voters to target and design and pilot test my treatment letter.