Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Texting for democracy

The CNET News Blog posted this story on a report by researchers from the University of Michigan and Princeton that claims text-messaging young voters before an election makes them “significantly more likely to vote than those who didn't receive a text message reminder.”

According to the description, in the study students were text-messaged reminders before the election, and in the group that received reminders participation was up 4.2%. However, there is no indication that the researchers called or emailed control groups to see what role text-messaging actually played in the increase. Another point: according to the press release, the real authors of the study were the Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project, a nonprofit, and Working Assets, a cell phone company; the two were assisted by doctoral students from Michigan and Princeton. All told, the buzz around this story strikes me as ill-considered. Even though the headline reads “Texting boosts young voter turnout,” the substance of the report seems closer to “Reminders boost young voter turnout, but only by a little.”

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