Empirically, if you tell those from Party A that the turnout among those from Party B will be quite high, does that tend to motivate higher turnout or otherwise change voting attitudes?

I am having trouble with this literature search. I am not looking for the effect of polarization; I only want changes in beliefs about turnout holding constant everything else (as best as data can test that).

  • I saw some circumstantial evidence for "no" on 538, but nothing logically rigorous enough to warrant an answer.
    – user4012
    Nov 13, 2015 at 23:06
  • Clearest anecdotal example: 2008/2012. Everyone with a pulse knew Dems would have super high turnout with Obama on the ballot, even without being policy wonks and reading polls. Yet "R" turnout was... not as enthusiastic as it would have been if this hypothesis held.
    – user4012
    Nov 13, 2015 at 23:08

1 Answer 1


It is obviously very difficult to answer this question without having a large sample size interview. With that being said, there are certainly a few factors that can either increase or decrease voter participation, especially in the times we find ourselves in now.

For example, most people between the ages of say....early 20's to late 50's or early 60's, have stuff going on. We all have busy lives these days and we have to prioritize. And lets be honest, there has to be a major motivating factor to get us out to the polls as opposed to doing whatever other activity we undoubtedly had planned on election day.

The last election for example....The media actually put it out there that Clinton had a 98% chance to defeat trump in the election. Now, if I was a Clinton supporter, would I be more or less inclined to skip my sons first basketball game to go out and vote when I am being led to believe that my candidate has a 98% chance to win the election? How about if I was a Trump supporter? Would I be more or less motivated to skip my son's first basketball game if I thought my candidate had a 2% chance to win? In either scenario, its only natural to feel like whether or not I vote, its not going to affect the outcome.

So whether it is saying that Party A will have a higher turnout than Party B, or that Party A has a 98% chance of defeating Party B, you would think that it has to have an impact at some level. How much of an impact has more to do with whether or not the people believe the claims or not. But again, unless you asked everyone why they did or did not vote, its impossible to know.

On the surface it would appear that making a claim like that was intended to disenfranchise Trump voters so they would stay home, thinking Clinton already had it in the bag. But clearly they did not buy it. On the other hand, how much did that claim affect the Clinton voters? How many people chose to do whatever they had planned rather than get out and vote because they thoughy Clinton had it in the bag? The only thing we know for sure is that a claim like that did not hurt Trump. What we don't know, is whether or not it actually hurt Clinton. I have a feeling it did, but the reality is....it very well could have had absolutely no effect.

Maybe up until 12 years ago we could make the argument that these types of tactics can affect an election through voter turnout. But I think today, there is so little trust for the mainstream media as a whole, that most people just don't put any value at all on the claims made by them. Or at least there are media sources out there dedicated to each side of the isle that refute the claims of the media on the other side. If you are an R, you are going to watch the media outlets that tell you what you want to hear, and if you are a D, you are going to do the same.

So maybe at one time it did have an impact, but I have seen no evidence in the last election at least, that it has the same impact as it used to...if any at all. In fact, I am pretty sure that if it did have an impact, Clinton would have been vilifying our media for affecting the voter turnout, rather than blasting the "Russians" for leaking their emails. So at least her mind, it would appear that she contributes her loss more to the leaked emails than low voter turnout because of claims made by our media that she was guaranteed to win the election.

  • "The media actually put it out there that Clinton had a 98% chance to defeat trump in the election" The Huffington Post, yes. But reliable sources like 538 only gave her 71.4%. Jul 30, 2017 at 8:37

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