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Hang Ups and Beeps: Random Assignment, Non-Random Assignment, and Selection Effects

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Abstract:

In the 2002 general election a field experiment was conducted in San Francisco. 5% of the call list for a GOTV mobilization drive was segregated into a control group; the rest were called as planned. Following the election, a comparison of the treatment and control groups revealed that the GOTV calls had virtually no effect on voter turnout. However, not everyone in the treatment group actually received the treatment – i.e., answering the telephone and listening to the message. Looking at only successfully completed calls, there was an apparent large effect, because these people voted at much higher rates than either the control group or members of the treatment group who did not receive the call. This is, of course, a selection effect – it is why we randomize. People who are available and willing to receive a GOTV call are different from people who are either not available or not willing. Indeed, there are even differences among those people who did not receive the call. I have data on the disposition of each call. While people who were successfully contacted voted at the highest rates, this is not the only distinction. The unwilling people vote at the next highest rate – people who answered the phone but hung up on the caller. Other distinctions exist as well. Among people who apparently were not home, people who had answering machines voted at higher rates than people who did not. This would be unsurprising if the callers left messages, but in fact they did not. There was also a very large distinction between wrong numbers and disconnected lines. This paper provides these data and explains some of the underlying theoretical reasons for these distinctions. It explains what the selection effect is, why it exists, and how experimental controls deal with it. It also discusses the methodological reasoning for analyzing data from both a random and non-random perspective to maximally leverage the information at one’s disposal.

Most Common Document Word Stems:

turnout (56), voter (52), call (51), vote (49), phone (38), group (36), treatment (36), gotv (33), polit (31), differ (30), one (27), effect (26), answer (24), registr (23), contact (21), peopl (20), control (20), experi (19), like (19), rate (19), elect (17),

Author's Keywords:

voting, voters, turnout, mobilization, selection effects, experiment, field experiment, unobserved variables, phone calls, randomization, non-random, GOTV, methodology
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Name: American Political Science Association
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MLA Citation:

McNulty, John. "Hang Ups and Beeps: Random Assignment, Non-Random Assignment, and Selection Effects" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Marriott Wardman Park, Omni Shoreham, Washington Hilton, Washington, DC, Sep 01, 2005 <Not Available>. 2013-12-17 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p40236_index.html>

APA Citation:

McNulty, J. E. , 2005-09-01 "Hang Ups and Beeps: Random Assignment, Non-Random Assignment, and Selection Effects" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Marriott Wardman Park, Omni Shoreham, Washington Hilton, Washington, DC Online <APPLICATION/PDF>. 2013-12-17 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p40236_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: In the 2002 general election a field experiment was conducted in San Francisco. 5% of the call list for a GOTV mobilization drive was segregated into a control group; the rest were called as planned. Following the election, a comparison of the treatment and control groups revealed that the GOTV calls had virtually no effect on voter turnout. However, not everyone in the treatment group actually received the treatment – i.e., answering the telephone and listening to the message. Looking at only successfully completed calls, there was an apparent large effect, because these people voted at much higher rates than either the control group or members of the treatment group who did not receive the call. This is, of course, a selection effect – it is why we randomize. People who are available and willing to receive a GOTV call are different from people who are either not available or not willing. Indeed, there are even differences among those people who did not receive the call. I have data on the disposition of each call. While people who were successfully contacted voted at the highest rates, this is not the only distinction. The unwilling people vote at the next highest rate – people who answered the phone but hung up on the caller. Other distinctions exist as well. Among people who apparently were not home, people who had answering machines voted at higher rates than people who did not. This would be unsurprising if the callers left messages, but in fact they did not. There was also a very large distinction between wrong numbers and disconnected lines. This paper provides these data and explains some of the underlying theoretical reasons for these distinctions. It explains what the selection effect is, why it exists, and how experimental controls deal with it. It also discusses the methodological reasoning for analyzing data from both a random and non-random perspective to maximally leverage the information at one’s disposal.

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Document Type: application/pdf
Page count: 21
Word count: 5874
Text sample:
HANG UPS AND BEEPS: RANDOM ASSIGNMENT NON-RANDOM ASSIGNMENT AND SELECTION EFFECTS John E. McNulty jmcnulty@binghamton.edu Department of Political Science Binghamton University (SUNY) ABSTRACT: In the 2002 general election a field experiment was conducted in San Francisco. 5% of the call list for a GOTV mobilization drive was segregated into a control group; the rest were called as planned. Following the election a comparison of the treatment and control groups revealed that the GOTV calls had virtually no effect on
28: 408-429. Radcliff Benjamin. 1994. “Turnout and the Democratic Vote.” American Politics Quarterly 22: 259-76. Ranney Austin. 1983. Channels of Power. New York: Basic Books. Rosenstone Steven J. and John Mark Hansen. 1993. Mobilization Participation and Democracy in America. New York: Macmillan. Tucker Harvey J. and Arnold Vedlitz. 1986. “Does Heavy Turnout Help Democrats in Presidential Elections?” American Political Science Review 87: 1291-98. Wolfinger Raymond E. and Steven J. Rosenstone. 1980. Who Votes? New Haven: Yale University Press. Zaller


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