Civic Participation Part 2: Honesty vs Politeness

When we began our research our goal was to determine if citizens engage in civic participation out of genuine interest and understood knowledge or do they take literature, answer polls and even vote out of politeness or a perceived requirement. We planned to generate these results through diverse contact methods such as candidate literature, polls, personal interviews, phone calls and a double blind test to ensure the validity of survey candidate answers.

 

The sample group was created using nine different area codes located in the Northeast neighborhoods of Queens.  The total sample group was originally contacted to agree to sign a petition to support a specific candidate throughout the month of July.  The control group was made up of 150 people who were contacted face to face to sign a petition for a particular candidate.  The experimental group consisted of 300 people who were also contacted face to face to sign petitions for two different candidates.  All three candidates are competing in the 2013 New York City Mayoral election in the same party line.

 

Over the course of three weeks in August I have had several volunteers follow a specific script (included in the footnote) in an effort to collect data.  Three separate attempts were made to contact the same people to determine their honesty and politeness in participating in the poll. Using the control group of 300 we called each person to see if they would support the same candidate who they had previously signed a petition for in the last month if they thought we were an independent research group.  The second call to the same person was from the campaign of the candidate who they had signed the petition for. The third call was from the campaign of a candidate whose petition they had not signed.

 

As of today, our results are incomplete as we are planning to continue to collect data after the September 10th Primary election and also the November 5th General election because our project has been extended to the full academic year.  The initial data we have collected has been exceedingly hard to obtain, since the people who actually participate are a self-selecting group who are willing to share their thoughts. We have faced the challenge of getting people to participate in the poll and  are still working to produce results by making  another round of phone calls that will be included in the final report.

 

Throughout this research multiple questions have been raised.  How do you get people to be honest with you on how they feel about civic engagement? How much time can you take up from people to see how they feel? How accurate can a poll really be on how people feel? Is a poll an accurate snapshot of how a voter feels at that particular time? And how do we know people won’t change their mind unless we follow them over a longer period of time? I hope to answer all of these questions by continuing the research and analysis throughout the entire academic year.

 

Civic Participation Engagement

The title of my project is Civic Participation Engagement, which looks to answer the question, “Do citizens engage in civic participation out of genuine interest and understood knowledge or do they take literature, answer polls and even vote out of politeness or a perceived requirement”.  The objective, testing the strength of voter registration as a first indicator of future voting action while obtaining objective criteria to measure the strength of civic participation.

Focusing on the North East Queens neighborhoods of Whitestone, North Flushing, Auburndale, Bayside and Douglaston [all of which are ethnically and economically diverse], we hope to show a cross section of eligible voters in a wide range of socioeconomic classes.  Using diverse contact methods such as candidate literature, polls, personal interviews, phone calls and a double blind test to ensure the validity of survey candidate answers we will track participants both after the September primary and again after the November election.

My primary focus is to gauge whether any particular factors are more or less likely to encourage voter participation, such as ethnicity, geography, repeated contact, etc. The significance of this research is to determine a better way for the electorate to be persuaded to participate. Because the percentage of registered voters who actually exercise their civic right is 10 to 15 percent this research may reveal objective criteria that could increase civic participation slightly, as a one or two percent increase would make a monumental impact of future election results.