The bottom line on getting people to vote

DANIEL KAHNEMAN:You call and ask people ahead of time, “Will you vote?”. That’s all. “Do you intend to vote?”. That increases voting participation substantially, and you can measure it. It’s a completely trivial manipulation, but saying ‘Yes’ to a stranger, “I will vote” …

NATHAN MYHRVOLD: But to Elon’s point, suppose you had the choice of calling up and saying, “Are you going to vote?”, so you prime them to vote, versus exhorting them to vote.

KAHNEMAN: The prime could very well work better than the exhortation because exhortation is going to induce resistance, whereas the prime‚ the mild embarrassment causes you to make what feels like a commitment, and the commitment, if it’s sufficiently precise, is going to have an effect on behavior.

RICHARD THALER: If you ask them when they’re going to vote, and how they’re going to get there, that increases voting.

KAHNEMAN: And where.

From the transcript of a conversation featuring Daniel Kahneman on “Two Big Things Happening in Psychology Today.”

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  • Timothy Platt


    In Sweden, where I live, as in many other countries, there is NO VOTER REGISTRATION! A few weeks before an election, a voter card comes in the mail to every eligible voter giving information about where and how to vote, if one chooses to (>80% do). Requiring active voter registration, as in the US, is vote suppression !!

    If the IRS in the US can put every potential taxpayer on the tax rolls, the boards of election can put every eligible citizen on the voter rolls (probably at much lower cost than the current system).

    Automatic voter registration as the default state would produce a quantum leap in voting rates in US, and fundamentally change what services, such as education and health care, are provided to whom in the United States.