Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Hawthorne Effect in Voting

In 2012, heavy electioneering only occurred in the 12-15 battleground or swing states. In the other 35+ states we hardly saw a billboard, TV ad, or even bumper sticker concerning the presidential race.

To be sure, the local races put up billboards, yard signs, and ran a few TV ads. Still, unless you're a friend of one of the local candidates, these probably do not move you.

I live in Wyoming - heavily Republican - and California - heavily Democratic. Neither was a swing or battleground state in 2012. Therefore we saw no presidential candidate visits, none of their attack ads, got none of the mailers, weren't contacted by their "ground games," yada, yada, yada.

In many ways it was pleasant not being bombarded with all the campaign lies but nobody much cared whether or not we voted or for whom. If we were people who took little interest in politics, it would have been much too easy to blow off voting.

I'd like to see studies of whether or not much higher proportions of eligible voters in swing states got registered and voted. My hypothesis would be that the difference between voting levels in swing and non-swing states would be significant and enough to affect the total popular vote outcomes in meaningful ways.

I base this hypothesis on the 1930s Hawthorne studies which showed that workers produce more when someone pays attention to them and their efforts. It logically follows that potential voters are more likely to vote when someone is pestering them to do so, paying attention to their voting behavior.