To complement our ongoing civic engagement efforts, the James Irvine Foundation and its grantee partners are launching ambitious nonpartisan voter outreach and mobilization efforts for 2014’s primary and general elections. A March 25th convening marked the launch of Irvine’s Voter Outreach & Technology (VOTE) Initiative, a set of field experiments across eight counties, conducted by nine organizations. These organizations will use targeted data analysis and new mobilization strategies, enabled by technology, to encourage voters from traditionally underrepresented populations to make their voices heard.
In the years since Irvine’s last set of voting field experiments, the California Votes Initiative from 2006-2009, the field has seen new technologies and tools emerge with potential for reaching wider audiences. However there’s been a relative lack of data specific to California’s diverse population to inform civic groups about which strategies are most effective. The VOTE Initiative will fill this gap by demonstrating which emerging tools stand to most impact California’s unique demographic landscape. Preliminary findings from the initiative’s experiments may be available in late summer, and comprehensive findings will be available by early 2015 to inform future voter outreach strategies at Irvine and beyond.
Lisa García Bedolla of UC Berkeley leads the research team supporting the organizations, along with Marisa Abrajano of UC San Diego and Jane Junn of the University of Southern California. The research team works with each organization to develop a quantitative research design including randomly assigned “treatment” and “control” groups of voters, and to conduct observations of each organizations’ voter contact work in the field. At the close of each election cycle, the research team will analyze the outcomes of the outreach, from the public voter file, and prepare detailed findings for sharing across the cohort and with the broader field. The Foundation has also contracted directly with Political Data Inc., the state’s leading voter file data provider, to provide technical assistance within the cohort on how to use the online voterfile database, mobile app, predictive dialer system, and other technology-based voter outreach and mobilization tools.
VOTE’s participating organizations all bring strong capacity and track records of nonpartisan voter mobilization. For example, Rock the Vote and CalPIRG are working together to mobilize young voters between the ages of 18-29 years old statewide. They will test the extent to which Get Out the Vote (GOTV) text messages increase turnout among young voters and how results vary by ethnicity and other characteristics. They also will explore whether Facebook ads increase voter turnout. Finally, they will test which messages and mediums best recruit volunteers to participate in GOTV efforts.
In another example, Strategic Concepts in Policy Organizing & Education (SCOPE) plans to engage new and occasional voters in South Los Angeles with a specific focus on young people, African Americans, and Latinos. SCOPE’s experiment will explore the extent to which text messaging enhances the impact of traditional forms of GOTV, including door knocking and phone-banking.