Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's election day, so vote (if you are legally allowed to do so :-)!

On election day, some notes on what political science has contributed to our understanding of election outcomes (turnout, votes, etc.). The New York Times magazine this past weekend included an interesting article called "Nudge the Vote" covering insights derived from political science research into elections over the past decade. As the article notes, experimental studies have shed considerable insight into tactics political campaigns can use to increase turnout. Moreover, those insights are increasingly specific: for example, multiple-voter households are targeted in different ways from single-voter households. In recent years, political consultants are drawing more and more on such findings, as well as conducting experiments of their own.

Also of interest: an op-ed in the New York Times last week, by political scientists Barry Burden and Kenneth Mayer, pointing out that early voting may, somewhat counter-intuitively, reduce turnout, because it reduces the hype around election day. On the other hand, voting-day registration — whether this be for early voting or on election day — unambiguously increases turnout. Given how little verification takes place to give people their voting registration (see my post last week about the DMV routinely suggesting that I, a non-citizen, register to vote), it is surprising how few states allow same-day registration.

Finally, the Berkeley Electronic Press' Forum currently has an entire issue dedicated to the connection between political science and practical politics. Among many interesting contributions, Hans Noel offers a handy overview of "Ten Things Political Scientists Know That You Don't"

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