Ted Cruz’s lesson from social science– lie!

Fascinating what’s been going on with Ted Cruz’s  campaign mailers in Iowa.  Cruz has taken some nicely established principles from social science and taken to them to the next level by blatantly lying to voters.   Ryan Lizza with the details:

Ted Cruz’s Presidential campaign prides itself on being data-centric and on integrating insights from political science into its tactics. In 2008, academics at Yale published an influential paper showing that one of the most effective ways to get voters to the polls was “social pressure.” Researchers found that registered voters in a 2006 primary election in Michigan voted at a higher rate if they received mailers indicating that their participation in the election would be publicized. The mailer that had the biggest impact included information about the two previous elections and whether the recipient and his or her neighbors participated or not. “We intend to mail an updated chart,” the mailer warned. “You and your neighbors will all know who voted and who did not.”

Insights from the Yale study have since been adopted by several campaigns, including MoveOn, which also faced criticism when it used the tactic to turn out voters for Barack Obama’s reëlection, in 2012. Given its obsession with political science, it’s no surprise that the Cruz campaign decided to adopt the “social pressure” techniques to turn out voters in Iowa for Monday night’s caucuses. On Saturday, Twitter came alive with pictures from voters in the state who received mailers from the Cruz campaign. At the top of the mailers, in a bold red box, are the words “VOTING VIOLATION.” Below that warning is an explanation:

You are receiving this election notice because of low expected voter turnout in your area. Your individual voting history as well as your neighbors’ are public record. Their scores are published below, and many of them will see your score as well. CAUCUS ON MONDAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE and please encourage your neighbors to caucus as well. A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday’s caucuses.
Below that, a chart appears with the names of the recipient of the mailing as well as his neighbors and their voting “grade” and “score.”

A further explanation appears below the chart:

Voter registration and voter history records are public records distributed by the Iowa Secretary of State and/or county election clerks. This data is not available for use for commercial purposes – use is limited by law. Scores reflect participation in recent elections. [Emphasis added by Lizza]

After looking at several mailers posted online, I was more curious about how the Cruz campaign came up with its scores. On all the mailers I saw, every voter listed had only one of three possible scores: fifty-five per cent, sixty-five per cent, or seventy-five per cent, which translate to F, D, and C grades, respectively. Iowans take voting pretty seriously. Why was it that nobody had a higher grade?

In Iowa, although voter-registration information is free and available to the public, voter history is not. That information is maintained by the secretary of state, who licenses it to campaigns, super PACs, polling firms, and any other entity that might want it. So was the Cruz campaign accurately portraying the voter histories of Iowans? Or did it simply make up the numbers?

It seems to have made them up. [emphasis mine]

Followed by more good stuff from Iowa State Political Science Professor who received a mailing and is pretty damn sure they are lying.

Damn, this guy is evil (even if he was not personally involved in this, he clearly empowers the type of people who see nothing wrong with this).  It’s one thing to try and take social science finding to increase your support in an election.  It’s quite another to send out a mailer to people lying about their own and their neighbors’ voting records.  Just wow.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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