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Promoting voter registration: the effects of low-cost interventions on behaviour and norms

Kölle, Felix; Lane, Tom; Nosenzo, Daniele; Starmer, Chris

Authors

Felix Kölle

Tom Lane

Daniele Nosenzo

CHRIS STARMER chris.starmer@nottingham.ac.uk
Professor of Experimental Economics



Abstract

We report two studies investigating whether, and if so how, different low-cost interventions affect voter registration rates. Low-cost message-based interventions are increasingly used to promote target behaviours. While growing evidence shows that such 'nudges' often significantly impact behaviour, understanding of why interventions work or fail in particular contexts remains underdeveloped. In a natural field experiment conducted before the 2015 UK General Election, we varied messages on a postcard sent by Oxford City Council to unregistered students encouraging them to join the electoral register. Our primary finding from the field study is that just one of our interventions – a reminder that people failing to register may be fined-has a significant positive impact. Offering small monetary rewards to register, instead had a negative but insignificant effect. In a second study, using an online experiment we identify a particular mechanism explaining the influence of this intervention. Specifically, we show that our interventions have divergent effects on perceptions of the normative appropriateness of registering: emphasising that failing to register is punishable by law strengthened the perception that one ought to register, while offering monetary inducements for registering weakened the perception that doing so is an action already expected within society.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2020-03
Journal Behavioural Public Policy
Print ISSN 2398-063X
Electronic ISSN 2398-0648
Publisher Cambridge University Press (CUP)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 4
Issue 1
Pages 26-49
APA6 Citation K├Âlle, F., Lane, T., Nosenzo, D., & Starmer, C. (2020). Promoting voter registration: the effects of low-cost interventions on behaviour and norms. Behavioural Public Policy, 4(1), 26-49. https://doi.org/10.1017/bpp.2019.10
DOI https://doi.org/10.1017/bpp.2019.10
Keywords JEL classifications: C93: Field Experiments; D03: Behavioural Microeconomics: Underlying Principles; D72: Political Processes: Rent-Seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behaviour; Keywords: Voter Registration; Voting; Field Experiment; N
Publisher URL https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/behavioural-public-policy/article/promoting-voter-registration-the-effects-of-lowcost-interventions-on-behaviour-and-norms/E12DE9C3D67D902E1A2C9A0D4A5D2909

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