Messaging universal vote by mail : an exploration of the factors that influence message processing for niche policy topics
Metadata[+] Show full item record
According to the federal government, the current model of voting in the United States has changed little since the country's founding even as voting has moved from wooden ballot boxes to electronic voting machines and counting from manual to machine ("Voting and election history," 2018). Though the Democratic Party made voting access a major plank of its "A Better Deal for Our Country" plan introduced during the 2018 midterms (Golshan, 2018), these reforms as written into legislation focused on limiting the effects of vote suppressing ID laws, removing money from politics, and strengthening ethics rules for public servants (H.R. 1, 2019). This law seeks to address flaws in the current system but does little to update an electoral process that has remained largely unchanged for the past two and a half centuries, aside from the adoption of Amendment XVII in 1912 which instated the direct election of Senators. Though election management is left to the states, the current system largely privileges those who are able to physically show up to a location on the single day that ballots are cast ("Presidential election process," 2018). The electoral system as it exists now also disenfranchises entire populations with Washington, DC and Puerto Rico, both holding large nonwhite populations, the two most talked-about examples. Though Congress held a hearing on DC statehood in September 2019 and Puerto Rico introduced its statehood bill in Congress (H.R. 4901, 2019), these jurisdictions are likely to remain unrepresented in Congress for the foreseeable future as granting statehood falls along the partisan divide (Marquette, 2019). The ballots provided on Election Day are often confusing (Ellis, 2018) and the time constraints of casting a ballot in the middle of the work week do not leave much time to process a poorly designed ballot. The problem persists even with mail-in ballots. In 2018, 30,000 ballots in Broward County, Florida were undervoted -- people forgot to choose a candidate for U.S. Senator -- and Georgia's birthdate requirement nearly invalidated hundreds of ballots. VBM is especially important for students -- a particularly challenging population in the electorate. A VBM policy would help to remind students of an upcoming election, a detail that is easily forgotten under the heavy workload and busy schedule of college life. It would also afford the opportunity to spend time understanding and fully completing a ballot, thereby reducing undervoting and the voiding of ballots. However, VBM is not a well-known policy at present. Voters must first be informed about what VBM is, why it is necessary, and the personal and societal benefits it can have. Extant research suggests that framing affects message processing (Bolson, Druckman, and Cook, 2014), which is especially important during the introduction of a new topic or issue that the audience is unfamiliar with. With this necessity in mind, the below study looks to identify effective message framing for informing college students, the age group with the lowest election turnout, about the potential for the policy to increase access to the polls. I also examine which message framing is most effective in garnering support for the policy.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License.