Connecting with voters in a time of social distancing

Research suggests a powerful way to get out the vote without having to canvas in person

Image via the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab

"At a time when the very act of voting may not be possible in person, it is essential that we test out novel ways of achieving the civic objective of people exercising their franchise." 

— Donald P. Green, affiliate, Abdul Latif Poverty Action Lab at MIT; Burgess Professor of Political Science, Columbia University

Research and Perspectives for the Pandemic
Main Page | Election 2020



"As with many areas of life, the coronavirus pandemic has already disrupted the very foundation of our democracy: elections. Political campaigns have struggled to adjust to the new realities of campaigning in a time of social distancing and shelter-in-place orders. Senate campaigns, for example, have suspended door-to-door canvassing and are transitioning to being almost entirely online.

"Getting individuals to vote, whether in person or by mail, is one of the central concerns of most campaigns. Many of them have taken a scientific approach to learning which strategies for increasing turnout they should prioritize, employing randomized evaluations to compare the relative effectiveness of different tactics. One theme that emerges from this literature is that in-person interactions, whether through personal canvassing or social Election Day 'festivals,' are among the most effective means of getting out the vote. With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic engendering protracted periods of social distancing and a number of elections on the horizon, however, these in-person interactions may no longer be viable from a public health standpoint. How, then, can campaigns effectively engage voters while engaging in such distancing?"

Full commentary at Scientific American


Suggested links

Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL)

MIT Department of Economics

Donald P. Green