GOTV Psychology Could Give Obama a Second Term

More on the huge and disturbing advantage the Left has on Get-Out-the-Vote psychology this year from the always-interesting Sasha Issenberg (emphasis added):

Those who just received an Election Day reminder turned out to vote at a rate 5 percentage points higher than a control group. But those who had first been contacted before election—when volunteers asked, as part of their scripts, “Can I count on you to vote?”—turned out at twice that rate after an Election Day follow-up.

As I wrote here recently, we should be afraid. Very, very afraid:

Progressives are far, far beyond our side in this effort to understand how to communicate with and mobilize voters.

The Left has already institutionalized GOTV field experiments, and they have an army of academics working with unions and other grassroots organizations to carry them out. They have learned from hundreds of experiments over 4-5 election cycles. We are very much behind in this game. They have a huge advantage in institutional knowledge and best-practices that will give them a large edge in GOTV effectiveness this fall. 

If Romney continues to perform and Obama to stumble, then even a serious GOTV advantage won’t matter. But if this election is as close as it looks in key battleground states, then a 5-10 percent boost in Democratic turnout for key demographics is more than enough to win President Obama a second term. 

We need to take social science very seriously . . . I don’t mean just microtargeting algorithms using observational data, but experimental social science in the field and in the lab. And we need to over-perform this year in other ways just to overcome the Progressive advantage in GOTV.

  1. Roberto
    Adam Schaeffer:  We need to take social science very seriously . . . I don’t mean just microtargeting algorithms using observational data, but experimental social science in the field and in the lab.  · 21 minutes ago

    The phrase “social science” is more than moderately objectionable. There is data here that is perhaps of marginal value, but you are a fool if you embrace the liberal conceit that this activity comprises anything remotely approaching science.

    This is no mere point of linguistics. Cleromancy is as much a science as this “microtargeting” babble. You are arrogant to imagine otherwise. 

  2. genferei

    One response to this would be to conclude that it is not just right in principle but right strategically that the GOP defund universities in general and social science in particular.

  3. Adam Schaeffer
    C

    Easy, easy Roberto! I have serious doubts about much of microtargeting and its value. But this isn’t what I’m talking about. These are controlled experiments, and they certainly are a proper and serious science. They are just as much science as controlled experiments investigating animal mating behavior, feeding, predatory behavior, etc. 

    Human behavior is exceedingly complex, so we always have to be careful generalizing. But we do have some pretty consistent aspects of our psychology and behavior as well.

    I’d say that conservatism and free-market economics is all about a fairly stable, basic human psychology. And we argue, with good evidence, that certain structures such as communism are incompatible with that psychology and lead to perverse behaviors and outcomes because of that incompatibility. Humans have a basic psychological and moral architecture, but that doesn’t mean that human behavior can’t change radically depending upon the context. We know that it can and does.

    Is it arrogant to imagine we might learn something through experiments in voting behavior? Why? Why don’t you consider these experiments to be science, social science?

  4. Joseph Paquette

    Immediate social pressures can be powerful and it is a worry.  However, polls show that there is a very large, highly motivated, and dissatisfied electorate, and they will end this Presidency. 

  5. Roberto
    Adam Schaeffer: Is it arrogant to imagine we might learn something through experiments in voting behavior? Why? Why don’t you consider these experiments to be science, social science? · 8 minutes ago

    Because the word science is being denigrated into just a word, repeated ad infinitum in support of any argument some partisan has inclination to support. Why should anyone with a understanding of scientific precepts placidly accept such claims? Indeed such placid acceptance has been the source of no end of mischief. 

    You wish to claim the mantle of science in support of your assertions? Fine. Prove it, force any who object to eat their words and put aside ego and pride.

     Produce the double blind experiments which have been independently peer-reviewed and reproduced in support of your assertions for “social science” and I shall eat my words. The “social science” experiment that can meet this standard I have yet to see. 

  6. Barbara Kidder
    Adam Schaeffer:  

    Human behavior is exceedingly complex, so we always have to be careful generalizing. But we do have some pretty consistent aspects of our psychology and behavior as well.

    The studies to which you refer, are above my level of knowledge or understanding.  However, one need go no further than the ‘Pavlov’s dog’ model to recognize the huge advantage the left (and also an incumbent) holds.

    Perhaps, in your next column you would address the very real issue of ‘voter’ fraud’;  the ‘second cousin, once removed’ of the GOTV  drive.

    I will be anxiously awaiting your thoughts, in an article that might be titled:  ”Will ‘voter fraud’ give Obama a second term?”

  7. Adam Schaeffer
    C
    Roberto

    Produce the double blind experiments which have been independently peer-reviewed andreproduced in support of your assertions for “social science” and I shall eat my words. The “social science” experiment that can meet this standard I have yet to see. 

    The Progressive groups, with a nexus in the Analyst Institute, have run about 400-600 experiments that are largely private, not academic.

    But there are plenty of publicly-published GOTV experiments . . . http://gotv.research.yale.edu/?q=node/58

    And what we do at Evolving Strategies is double-blind, controlled experiments.

  8. Eeyore

    Could someone please forward this to The Paul Rahe Landslide Institute?

  9. Dan Hiland

    Adam Schaeffer: “If Romney continues to perform and Obama to stumble, then even a serious GOTV advantage won’t matter.”

    While I do appreciate the value of statistical analysis, the GOP should have started working on this problem several years ago.

    As for the present, there’s no “if” about this. Past performance is THE indicator of future results. Start packing, Barry…

  10. Roberto
    Adam Schaeffer

    The Progressive groups, with a nexus in the Analyst Institute, have run about 400-600 experiments that are largely private, not academic.

    But there are plenty of publicly-published GOTV experiments . . . http://gotv.research.yale.edu/?q=node/58

    And what we do at Evolving Strategies is double-blind, controlled experiments. 

    Unfortunately on first perusal these results appear very little different from what I have seen in the past Mr. Schaeffer. Many claims  regarding analysis and results yet very little actual data, certainly nothing independently verified, reproduced by a third party. The phrase “double blind” is even thrown around, I complement such individuals on their Google skills, yet with little or no data how is an independent critic to evaluate such claims other than by trust?  

    You have put these two resources forward and I will trust this much that you are not idly distracting the Ricochet community. There is a fair number of assertions on these sites, they merit more study. An initial perusal shows little of merit but trust can be extended that far if not further. 

    I will take you at your word far enough to accept that there is something here worth further study. 

  11. Schrodinger

    There is a philosophical difference between leftists and conservatives. Leftists see their supporters as drones that need to be managed. Conservatives see their supporters as individuals who will act responsibly. That is why the Dems need a GOTV program more. And why GOP GOTV tends to be smaller.

    I am also skeptical of “scientific” studies these days. To repeat from an earlier post.

    Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” - Mark Twain’s Own Autobiography: The Chapters from the North American Review
  12. Louie Mungaray (Squishy Blue RINO)

    The Slate Political Gabfest interviewed Sasha Issenberg on his book Victory Lab (his portion is from minute 19 to minute 30). David Plotz described Victory Lab as “Moneyball for Politics”.

    When asked to characterize the differing strengths of the Left and Right with respect to the science behind political campaigns, he answered that early on the Right was strong on using marketing information, i.e. brand loyalties and credit scores, whereas now the Left has a great advantage in motivated academics using social science tools to improve the effectiveness of GOTV efforts.

    When asked why the left was so far ahead on this front he answered “Franky, the consequences of a generation of dumping on academics and people who spend time in faculty lounges has caught up with Republicans”.

    Sure we have our entrepreneurial consultants wielding marketing mojo, but the left has hundreds of Political Science grad students seeking out liberal institutions who are funding experiments based on their research, none of them are seeking out the NRA or the Chamber of Commerce.

    Anyone who has ever made a living in sales knows it is critical to ask for the business. They are asking for a commitment, good on them.

  13. Scarlet Pimpernel

    It is certainly a worry that the Democrats will do a better job of getting their voters to the polls, especially in key areas.  On the other hand, the Democrats thought they would win in 2004 for that reason, but the GOP did much better than any expert anticipated.  The takeaway, however, could cut in either direction:  the Dems will try to make sure not to make the same mistake twice, or, perhaps (we hope) the GOP may, once again, surprise the experts.

  14. At The Rubicon

    So Adam, I’ll bet when your mom read “Winnie the Pooh’ to you as a child you identified the most with eeyore.

  15. Severely Ltd.

    This social engineering approach might be the brave new political world, but this time around I’ll trust the sense of personal responsibility on the Right–mentioned above by Scat–to prevail. Do we really want to win by developing the more effective psychological manipulation? To preserve personal freedom I would have to approve it, but how depressing.

  16. Adam Schaeffer
    C

    Scarlet Pimpernel, it’s a good point that Dems have more marginal voters to turn out, and there is a whole lot more to GOTV than organized political efforts. Mst people don’t vote because someone called them or asked for a pledge. 

    Which brings me to At The Rubicon‘s speculation . . . I’m a pretty optimistic guy in general, and I’m still betting against The One. I’ve been expecting the bottom to drop out on Barry’s numbers for a couple of months now. But that hasn’t happened (yet?). And I am deeply anxious. One of the reasons is their advantage in GOTV best-practice.

    I hope (think, still), that none of this will matter because of the people who woke up and turned out in 2010, and the people who’ve tuned out and dropped out since 2008. But . . . if it’s close, I think this could easily mean the margin. I just hope its not close this time. 

    Regardless, though, we can’t rely on an administration and Dem Party this incompetent and radical all the time. We need to catch up, if not for this election, then for the next, and the next . . .

  17. Adam Schaeffer
    C

    Severely Ltd., I know this stuff gets creepy quick. But one man’s psych manipulation is another’s better communication. I don’t think there is anything misleading or untoward about asking a citizen to make a public commitment to vote. You don’t have to do it. You already have your preference. Someone’s just asking you to put your self-perception where your mouth is. To make a real commitment to do what you say you’re going to do.

  18. Barbara Kidder
    Severely Ltd.:

     Do we really want to win by developing the more effective psychological manipulation? To preserve personal freedom I would have to approve it, but how depressing. · 5 minutes ago

    You have identified precisely the built-in disadvantage for Republicans;  that being, it is easier to ‘motivate’ your supporters with ‘goodies’ than to imbue them with a ‘sense of personal responsibility’.

    Personal responsibility can only be relied on to activate ideologues,; all other potential voters are up for grabs, like feathers from a burst pillow!

    Both parties have their percentage of ideologues but both parties do not have their bag of ‘trick-or-treat’ candy.

    The prolonged recession is, for Republicans, a two-edged sword.  Many voters are questioning their choice of Obama in 2008 because they see that the economy is worse, not better, 

    but, because the economy is worse, not better, many voters want to see that government assistance is robust and retained.

    Add to this the ‘voter fraud’ arm of the Democrats and this is how Obama may get a second term.

  19. David John

    The issue is much worse with early voting. In Akron, OH, I recently watched a gaggle of (mostly black women) being coralled and guided by a community organizer (I suppose) through the processes of registering and voting (apparently in OH, these processes can be done on the same day).

    I imagined the community organizer:

    • ————- Day 1 ————-

    • CO: Peggy, come with us in the minivan, let’s go vote.
    • Peggy: Oh, I’d like to, but I gotta meet my mom…
    • ————–Day 2 —————–
    • CO: Peggy, come-on let’s go vote.
    • Peggy: Oh, I’m sorry, I gotta finish at the laundromat. Don’t worry, I’ll vote…
    • —————– Day 3 ————-
    • ——————Day 4 ————-
    • etc.
    • ——————Until finally ——–
    • Peggy: Well, OK, if you can help me vote… you know i’m not too good at readin’.
  20. Edward Smith

    You are saying that this election is not in the bag.   That Republicans need to make calls, and make sure that their base turns out in full numbers.  That Conservatives need to do the same.  That we need to rely on the enthusiasm of the Tea Party Movement.

    You are saying that Democrats and Liberals will use every trick in the book to swing the vote their way.

    We didn’t know this?  If so, then we deserve to lose.