American Political Science Review



FORUM

Do Get-Out-the-Vote Calls Reduce Turnout? The Importance of Statistical Methods for Field Experiments


KOSUKE IMAI a1c1
a1 Princeton University

Abstract

In their landmark study of a field experiment, Gerber and Green (2000) found that get-out-the-vote calls reduce turnout by five percentage points. In this article, I introduce statistical methods that can uncover discrepancies between experimental design and actual implementation. The application of this methodology shows that Gerber and Green's negative finding is caused by inadvertent deviations from their stated experimental protocol. The initial discovery led to revisions of the original data by the authors and retraction of the numerical results in their article. Analysis of their revised data, however, reveals new systematic patterns of implementation errors. Indeed, treatment assignments of the revised data appear to be even less randomized than before their corrections. To adjust for these problems, I employ a more appropriate statistical method and demonstrate that telephone canvassing increases turnout by five percentage points. This article demonstrates how statistical methods can find and correct complications of field experiments.


Correspondence:
c1 Kosuke Imai is Assistant Professor, Department of Politics, Princeton University, Princeton NJ, 08544 (kimai@Princeton.Edu; http://www.princeton.edu/~kimai).


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