Getting Out the Vote in the Projects: Lessons from a Community Organizing Experiment

We analyze the effects of a community organizing initiative in low-income public housing on voter turnout among race-class subjugated communities. Get-out-the-vote campaigns and voter turnout are among the most heavily studied topics in empirical political science. Yet, we know much less about how to increase turnout among race-class subjugated communities, where community-level (as opposed to individual or household-level) interventions are necessary to mitigate long-standing legacies of structural inequity. Our results suggest that an organizing treatment, randomly assigned at the housing complex level, had a 3.1 percentage point effect on validated voter turnout in the 2018 midterm election. Although the treatment effect estimate is not statistically significant due to the small sample size, the qualitative data provide additional support for the effectiveness of the intervention. This study provides limited but difficult to obtain evidence about a participatory intervention in marginalized communities, as well as practical and ethical considerations for further study.

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