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Off Topic blog

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Abstract Politics – Follow Up

As a follow up to the previous post, I suppose I should entice you to go check out Abstract Politics by telling you a little about what you’ll find there.

The most recent post reviews “Social Pressure and Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment ,” an article from APSR by Gerber, Green, and Larimer. I don’t know how they got this past their human subjects review, but somehow they got permission to send postcards to a bunch of Michigan voters listing the names of all their neighbors, as well as whether each neighbor had bothered to vote in the previous two elections. At the end, there was an ominous note that they’d be sending an updated after the upcoming election, so all the recipient’s neighbors would know whether the recipient had voted.

Turns out this sort of social shaming works. Turnout skyrocketed. But holy heavy-handedness, batman! The turnout appeal was nonpartisan. But if a particular campaign had used this tactic–say, Hillary Clinton sending these out, telling you to come vote for her–I wouldn’t be surprised if turnout rose, but the vote shifted dramatically toward the opposition (in this case, Obama) as punishment for using such a brutal tactic.

The next review discusses “Vote Buying or Turnout Buying? Machine Politics and the Secret Ballot ,” by Simeon Nichter, also in the most recent APSR. We’ve known for a long time that political parties “buy” votes by giving people TVs, cash, or beer for voting. Until now, researchers have assumed that parties were trying to buy votes from moderate opposers–people who would otherwise be voting for the other party. Nichter presents evidence that parties are actually buying turnout, not votes–that is, they’re giving the goods to their strong supporters to encourage them to turnout.

There are also reviews of other articles from the most recent APSR, including “Cycles in American National Electoral Politics, 1854-2006: Statistical Evidence and an Explanatory Model ,” which responds to Mayhew’s (2002) severe criticisms of the realignment literature.

As you delve further back, you’ll find a few more reviews from recent issues of APSR. The site was launched only a couple weeks ago, though, so there’s only around a half dozen posts at present. From what I hear, future posts will cover AJPS and SPPQ, besides reviewing additional articles from APSR. (And since I’m the site’s biggest contributor, I’m in a position to know.) Registration at the site is open, so feel free to contribute reviews of your own.