Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Publishing the names of those who didn't ...

There's an interesting controversy noted in Editor & Publisher about a newspaper publishing the names and addresses of those who didn't vote in the 2004 election. Trying to "shame them" into voting.

Associations now have more information than ever about members who "don't" do something. For example, legislative software doesn't just show who made calls to action, but also makes it clear who didn't. Membership records show who completed a required course, but also makes it easy to create the list of those who didn't.

An association had thousands who had met a requirement, and several hundred who had not. For months multiple reminders including personal email notices and postcards were sent. Later, the list was published (online) of those who had done it; then, the list of those "missing" (not yet completing) the requirement was published. Guess which one got more attention? Maybe it's just human nature but it's often far more interesting to click to see who's on the "didn't do" list than the ones who did it. And thus, far more effective in getting results. If there is shame in being on a list of those "who didn't", should that step not be taken?

Few more thoughts on the voter list publication: 1.) aren't we continuously surprised how much public info really becomes public .... I learned about voter info years ago when working a neighborhood for a campaign and had all sorts of personal facts about neighbors (including bar codes that must have had more); 2.) the newspaper said since print list was costly it would be online next time (a different response than won't do it again)


Anonymous said...

Hi Cindy. Interesting related article in the Washington Post on Monday, about a study that found that voters were more likely to vote if they were told who among their neighbors had voted in the previous election and that the same info about them and their neighbors would be made available after the next election. This method worked better than several others in the study.

You mentioned that the negative list ("those who didn't") got more reaction than the positive list ("those who did"). Perhaps, as in the research study, if the positive list is more targeted (i.e., here's five of your peers who have done X, have you?), it might generate more results without being quite as shame-inducing.

I guess the main lesson is that making your message more personal will make it resonate more (but be careful not to overdo it).

Anonymous said...

Be careful what information you publicize. Members are entitled to privacy. It's really nobody's business whether someone voted, joined or didn't join, purchased publications, or didn't attend a meeting.

Anonymous said...

Well, it would seem to me that in an association where creating community is the goal, open chastisement might be counterproductive. A better way to go about it might be to do what activists in my area recently did: in order to get everybody's input on a short community planning questionnaire, they compared the list of those who did with the list of those who didn't, and then spent their time writing those who didn't. I had procrastinated, and found myself receiving daily emails from friends who were urging me to 'have my say'. It worked, I completed the questionnaire, and the organizers got the input they wanted. I would have really resented finding my name on a black list, though--and probably would have refused to participate ever again.

Anonymous said...

Just to follow up, my phone has been ringing all day because one particular political party has decided to make personal calls to voters who haven't voted. Now my daughter is still registered in our county, for some reason. And it's her they're wanting to talk to, even though she's lived in another state for six years. But everyone is very friendly and pleasant, and I am glad to see that people are being encouraged in a positive and neighborly way to get out and vote.