Behavioural economics used to get out the vote

Guest writer Bella Webber has been taking a look at get-out-the-vote strategies at general election 2019. Bella is a creative and designer, you can follow her on instagram and check out her work here.

In the final days of this election campaign political parties are using behavioural economic theories in order to encourage people to get to the polling station and vote in their favour.

Parties are using messaging that borrows from behavioural economic theories such as ‘herding’, ‘norming’ and ‘cognitive dissonance’.

Studies have found that simple informational messages or election countdowns are ineffective at increasing voter turnout and there is growing evidence that people do what they percieve others “like them” are doing, as opposed to making rational, independent decisions.

Something as simple as showing that others have performed a specific behaviour is a powerful way of boosting turnout.

On polling day this is likely to be done through parties using sharing content which highlights that people are voting for their side.

Framing voting as part of one’s identity and an example of a positive societal contribution follows the behavioural theory of ‘cognitive dissonance’.

A common way of doing this is to attach a sense of duty to voting and positioning it as an opportunity for citizens to make a difference, for example “I’m Voting Labour for the Final say on Brexit” and “This Thursday is the Last Chance you have to Stop Brexit and Boris Johnson”.

Come Thursday, it will be interesting to see how the parties implement these aspects of behavioural economics and if there are any innovations on polling day.

As ever, the level of turnout (and in what groups) will be a decisive factor in the result. Will the high stakes nature of the election outweigh voting fatigue and frustration with politics generally? We’ll find out tomorrow night.