MONDAY September 13th
The Berkeley Sociology Colloquium Series FALL 2010 Presents:
Mobilizing Inclusion: Getting Out the Vote among Low-Propensity Voters
Lisa García Bedolla
Graduate School of Education
University of California, Berkeley
Department of Political Science
Political participation studies have consistently found that socioeconomic status (SES) -- education, occupation, and income -- is the best predictor of voter turnout. Yet, over the past decade hundreds of field experiments have shown that get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts, usually a short conversation on a voter's doorstep, changes individual behavior. Given the voter's resources do not change as a result of that conversation, how can we explain why GOTV works? Using a foundation of over 300 field experiments fielded across six electoral cycles, we put forward a cognitive explanation for the power of GOTV. We argue that brief conversation, because it takes the form of a narrative social interaction, changes the voter's cognitive schema. In addition, through their voting practice, these marginalized voters are not only changing their own self-perceptions, but they are also redefining and expanding the American electorate -- what we call "governmentality from below." It is at this intersection between the individual and the social context that the transformative potential of GOTV may be realized.