With Election Day just around the corner, most Boston voters hardly bat an eye at the influx of political mailings. But these postcards felt a bit foreboding, a get-out-the-vote appeal with a Big Brotherish twist.
“Dear voter,” the handwritten messages read. “Who you vote for is secret, but whether you vote is public record. Please join your neighbors and vote in the important local elections on Tuesday, November 2!”More news and resources on the Boston election
The anonymous, out-of-state letters left many people who already had plans to vote scratching their heads this week, and posting about them online. Noting that voting histories are public record seemed an unusual way to increase turnout.
“I think the best word is ‘creepy,’” said Suffolk University law professor John Infranca, who received one of the yellow postcards. “It struck me as weird, this kind of notion that someone is watching me, or going to follow up and monitor my voting record.”
But the strangely phrased messages serve a defined purpose, according to the organization that appears to be behind the mailing campaign. And implying that someone could check on whether people voted is backed by firm research, they said.
“It’s called social pressure,” says Postcards for Climate’s website, which outlines the project’s intentions to coax more people to the polls. “Social pressure has been extremely well studied and is indisputably considered the most effective way to increase turnout.”
The group cited “Get Out the Vote,” a book by Donald Green and Alan S. Gerber, as the bedrock of the strategy, calling it “the gold-standard book on voter mobilization” that “summaries detailed evidence in support of social pressure.”
“There are various forms of social pressure, but they all reinforce the idea that voting is a social norm,” the group wrote. “Gratitude or messages that elicit pride or compare a voter’s record to an aggregate for their neighborhood are all considered social pressure.”
According to the group, Boston was included in the mailing campaign as a city where “progress is possible on climate, but only if voters who care about climate take the time to vote.”
The mailing did not include the organization’s name, endorse a candidate, or advocate for a specific issue. It simply urged people to vote, with a subtle reminder that others could know if they hadn’t.
“Those getting our postcards are progressive and will figure out which candidates share their values; we just need to make sure they plan to vote. Trust the political science!” the website says.
Representatives from the group did not return several requests for comment. But pictures of postcards shared on its Twitter account match those recently received by Boston residents. In September, the group tweeted that Boston was added to “our list of cities for postcards for this fall.”
One person tweeted last month “busy writing my postcards for Boston voters,” and included a picture of the writing prompts for filling out the cards.
Help us write postcards to climate voters in these cities:
Commerce City, CO
New Orleans, LASeptember 18, 2021
We just added BOSTON to our list of cities for postcards for this fall!
➡️ Sign up at https://t.co/l2xPlCLaISSeptember 15, 2021
The group also tagged the local chapter of the Sunrise Movement, a youth climate activist group, in a tweet.
While the postcards were well-intentioned, many questioned their approach.
“Definitely has a creepy ‘we’re watching you’ vibe,” one person said on Twitter, in response to a Globe reporter who shared an image of one of the cards.
My neighbors and I got postcards reminding us to vote today. Which is good!
But the tone is somewhat off… or am I wrong? My neighbor said she got a very “We know where you live” vibe. pic.twitter.com/CpHpTqk7Mo— JanelleNanos (@JanelleNanos) October 18, 2021
“My wife got one of these creepy postcards, too. I’ve written postcards to voters before but this messaging is like none I’ve ever seen,” another said after Universal Hub posted a card.
Alex Bermudez, who lives in West Roxbury, said she was intrigued when she first saw the postcard, which says “Your Vote, Your Voice” in large blue-and-black letters on the front.
But when she flipped it over, her curiosity gave way to confusion.
For starters, she said, the card was postmarked from Oakland, Calif., far from Boston’s local races. Then, of course, there was the off-putting message.
“The tone didn’t seem friendly at all,” Bermudez, who had already cast a mail-in ballot, said in a message to the Globe. She tossed it directly into the recycling bin.
Melissa Sullivan had a similar reaction. Not only was she surprised she was sent a postcard about the importance of voting — she never misses a chance to participate in an election — she also felt the message contained a veiled warning.
“I was really put off by the tone of the postcard,” said Sullivan. “Why would somebody say that [whether you vote is public record]? Are they publishing a list of people who aren’t voting? It just seemed oddly threatening.”
Sasha Issenberg, author of “The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns,” which chronicles innovations in election campaigning — including the use of social pressure mail and messaging — said versions of this type of tactic are common and have proven effective.
“Donald Green and Alan Gerber are like the godfathers of experimental research in campaigns,” said Issenberg, who worked in the Boston Globe’s Washington bureau in 2008. “I don’t think there’s anyone who questions, as a matter of effectiveness, that what people call ‘social pressure’ basically amounts to the most effective tool we know to increase the likelihood that an individual will turn out.”
But this particular campaign seems to go a step further, combining both the “social pressure” aspect with the handwritten component, making it feel more personal to some voters, Issenberg said.
“There may be something about that that comes off as creepier than the more traditional printed postcards or letters a lot of the early social pressure research is based on,” he said.
But an unfavorable reaction may be part of the plan.
A person who emailed a member of Postcards for Climate after receiving a postcard — and seeing a second one in a local Facebook group — was told by a representative that “backlash to these types of messages are definitely expected.”
“One reason these messages are so effective is ... that they resonate and people don’t just throw them out and forget about them 10 seconds later,” the representative wrote in the email, which was shared with the Globe. “In other words, some adverse reactions to the message likely make them even more effective,” especially when people circulate them online.
Sure, some voters might find the postcards “annoying and invasive,” the person wrote, but they still get everyone thinking about voting and the election.
Mission accomplished, it seems.
Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/some-boston-voters-say-postcards-they-received-about-voting-in-the-nov-2-election-felt-e2-80-98creepy-e2-80-99/ar-AAPPKza1787