Field Experiments on Citizen Participation in Elections and Referenda

Research question/goal: 

Getting citizens to participate in elections and referenda is at the heart of democracies. With declining turnout rates across Europe, this seems to become ever more important. Yet very little is known about the short-term chances of mobilizing voters to turn out in Europe. One of the reasons for this research gap is methodological: with traditional survey research, it is very difficult to assess the short-term effects of campaign mobilization. In contrast, field experiments allow a precise test of the effects of various campaign stimuli. Building on recent advances of field experiments in the USA and the UK, this projects aims to implement large-scale “get-out-the-vote”-field experiments in the multi-party context of Germany and thereby provide a comparative perspective on mobilization. Experiments will be conducted on both general elections at the state level and issue-specific referenda at the local level and will include different stimuli, such as inducing social pressure on citizens to participate or informing and educating citizens about the particular election or referendum.

Current stage: 

The project is still in the stage of data collection and preliminary analysis. The fieldwork prior to the state election in Baden-Württemberg was successfully carried out with about 14,000 face-to-face contacts in the experimental group. Furthermore, we finished analysing the individual-level data of the pre-election surveys; a post-election online wave is still in the field. Additionally, we are currently gathering structural local data on the aggregate level.

Fact sheet

Funding: 
Baden-Württemberg Stiftung
Duration: 
2015 to 2017
Status: 
ongoing
Data Sources: 
field experimental data, official voting statistics, survey data
Geographic Space: 
Germany

Publications