Did a text reminder increase voter turnout?

May 14th, 2009 at 4:07 pm by David Farrar

I was at the farewell function last night for the retiring CEO of the , . I was very pleased to be invited despite having helped take the Commission to court a couple of times :-)

Dr Catt mentioned that a paper was due out today on how a text reminder on election day significantly increased vote turnout. The paper is here.

There were 15,662 who had texted the EEC requesting an enrolment pack.Some of them were sent a text message on election day reminding them to vote, and some were not.

The turnout rate of those who got a text message was 75.5% – a significant 4.7% higher than the 70.8% who did not get a text message.

The biggest increase in voting was in low population density electorates (rural), electorates with high Maori populations and amongst people enrolled in the last month – they had a greater than 10% difference

I was amused that a few people replied to the text message, and this was one response:

HEY ORANGE GUY WE HAVIN FLAT WARMING 2NYTE BRING THE ORANGE JUICE AND ALL YR FRIENDS.

Anyway the results are strong enough that I think the Government should seriously look at doing a mass text on election day to enrolled voters. This would mean the EEC would have to collect cellphone numbers, but that can be done with a small law change.

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28 Responses to “Did a text reminder increase voter turnout?”

  1. gd (2,286 comments) says:

    No No No We cant have all this modern stuff For goodness sake we only want the RIGHT people to vote

    Thats means having to pass an IQ test and polticial knowledge test BEFORE getting to go into the polling booth

    When the riff raff get to caste their ballot God knows what the outcome might be

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  2. MyNameIsJack (2,415 comments) says:

    Anyway the results are strong enough that I think the Government should seriously look at doing a mass text on election day to enrolled voters. This would mean the EEC would have to collect cellphone numbers, but that can be done with a small law change.

    yes, let’s have more intrusion in to the citizens’privacy. what do you propose as the penalty for those who refuse/decline to give cell phone no, or in fact thiose who don’t have one. Will the EEC provide them with cellphones to keep the election honest?

    [DPF: Is this your day to be a fuckwit? People don’t have to supply a cellphone number obviously if they don’t have one or want to.]

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  3. Luke H (73 comments) says:

    This would mean the EEC would have to collect cellphone numbers

    Hopefully you meant “would have to be able to voluntarily collect cellphone numbers”?

    No more compulsion, please.

    [DPF: Yes of course voluntarily.]

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  4. Hagues (703 comments) says:

    If you are too stupid to know that its election day then you obviously don’t care enough to make a genuinely informed decision. I’d rather the informed do the voting, rather than have a few more trundle down and tick any box just cause they got a text.

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  5. Crampton (215 comments) says:

    gd may well be joking, but the evidence does suggest that political ignorance currently correlates with not voting; increasing turnout then reduces the knowledge of the median voter.

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  6. Grant Michael McKenna (1,160 comments) says:

    I’m pretty sure that it is possible to ‘spam’ cellphones by broadcasting a text to every number… no reason to collect numbers.

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  7. MyNameIsJack (2,415 comments) says:

    The turnout rate of those who got a text message was 75.5% – a significant 4.7% higher than the 70.8% who did not get a text message.

    Obviously its not just the much maligned journos of the MSM who rae mathematically challenged. It is actually 6.64% higher.

    Still, if DPF was doing their polling, we now know why it took Notional so many tries …

    [DPF: Don;t be a stupid ****. The absolute increase percentage is just as valid as the relative one]

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  8. peteremcc (344 comments) says:

    “If you are too stupid to know that its election day then you obviously don’t care enough to make a genuinely informed decision. I’d rather the informed do the voting, rather than have a few more trundle down and tick any box just cause they got a text.”

    Here here, even if that does make me cynical.

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  9. MyNameIsJack (2,415 comments) says:

    [DPF: Don;t be a stupid ****. The absolute increase percentage is just as valid as the relative one]

    As i said, mathematically challenged. And precious, too.

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  10. david (2,561 comments) says:

    Yeah jack that percentage points vs percentage change stuff is a real bummer and gets a lot of people the same way as cricketers talk about 10.5 overs with one ball to go.

    Pedants of the world unite.

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  11. s.russell (1,646 comments) says:

    I have much sympathy for the Electoral Commission. Having to go to court to defend a law which they privately thought was a crock must be very galling. Dr Catt and her staff probably (secretly) regard you as a hero, DPF, for your court cases against them!

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  12. MyNameIsJack (2,415 comments) says:

    you have a point David, but I doubyt many election strategies are decided on the number of balls in an over to go, but as a pollster, one would expect DPF to be more than a pedant, one would expect him to be accurate.

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  13. NX (504 comments) says:

    I glad Helen’s Labour didn’t institute this idea otherwise we all would’ve got a ‘vote Labour’ text message on election day.

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  14. BK Drinkwater (5 comments) says:

    MyNameIsJack, with all due respect, your pedantry is misplaced. In political polling, it’s near-universal practice to speak of percentage-point shifts rather than relative shifts given as percentages; this is well-understood by all consumers of news media.

    When people say “National is up 3% from 50%” about some hypothetical poll, it would be very unusual to assume that National’s new poll-score would be 51.5%. (Almost everyone would interpret the percentage sign after the “3” as a unit symbol—the unit being the percentage point.)

    And seriously, taking on DPF’s math credentials? I’ve seen this before, and it doesn’t normally end well for the people doing it.

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  15. bharmer (687 comments) says:

    David, would your scenario need to come under the legislation against UCE? In other words, would a positive opt in be required?

    [DPF: No as a vote reminder is not commercial. However it would be good practice to have an explicit consent statement when people enrol]

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  16. Colonel Masters (409 comments) says:

    The paper states:

    After the election we randomly selected 1,600 people who had received the txt and 1600 who had not received the txt.

    But I cannot seem to find how they actually chose the people who received the reminder text: was it random?

    If the texts were targeted at groups who normally have a low voter turnout then it must have had a significant effect and increased Labour’s vote share.

    I would not be surprised to find that the order to use taxpayers’ money for this “research” came directly from Labour and the Greens.

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  17. Graeme Edgeler (3,290 comments) says:

    But I cannot seem to find how they actually chose the people who received the reminder text: was it random?

    If the texts were targeted at groups who normally have a low voter turnout then it must have had a significant effect and increased Labour’s vote share.

    One of the ways for people get an enrolment pack was to text their name and address to the Electoral Enrolment Centre; 1600 random cellphones from which people sent enrolment pack request texts from then got don’t forget to vote texts.

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  18. Ratbiter (1,265 comments) says:

    “If the texts were targeted at groups who normally have a low voter turnout then it must have had a significant effect and increased Labour’s vote share.”

    THIS JUST IN: ENCOURAGING CITIZENS TO VOTE = LEFT CONSPIRACY

    Welcome to Kiwiblog!

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  19. Will de Cleene (485 comments) says:

    Helena Catt has done bloody well at the Electoral Commission. On top of a hard job of getting the country enrolled and at the polling booths, there was all that extraneous guff from the Electoral Finance Act to deal with too.

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  20. Adolf Fiinkensein (2,914 comments) says:

    DPF, every day is his day to be a fuckwit.

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  21. Viking2 (11,561 comments) says:

    Rather than blat on about reminding the mind numb to go and vote how about we have internet voting. That would be a step forward. Its about the only thing we can’t do online so lets get with 2020 and make it happen. Reduce the costs of polling days by abot 70%, allow for a longer vote period, faster collation of votes, allow side polls on other subjects, e.g. drinking age, smacking, tax and so on.

    We can do this in NZ. We are smart enough, we do have the cleaver people than make it happen and we can do it first and do it right and then we can sell the process and recoop our money.

    What about it.
    We can do it for local body as well.

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  22. Nomestradamus (3,433 comments) says:

    BK Drinkwater:

    MyNameIsJack, with all due respect, your pedantry is misplaced.

    I could be wrong, BK, but I’d say the consensus round here is no respect is due to MyNameisJack.

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  23. MajorBloodnok (361 comments) says:

    Viking2, we could do internet voting. But we would not be first. It has already been used in Estonia, Switzerland and UK. It is also difficult to make it secure.

    I’m with those who think election day TXT messages is a bad idea. If you can’t remember the date, how are you going to remember the foolish antics of people or parties that should not be returned to Parliament?

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  24. transmogrifier (522 comments) says:

    I would argue that the more informed a voter is NZ, the less likely they are to vote for any of the pathetic excuse for parties we have here.

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