Why letters, not postcards?
We ask that all volunteers use the template and prepare letters according to the instructions because our experimental evidence shows that letters are a highly effective way to contact voters and make an impact on turnout.
Indeed, our peer-reviewed results from 2020 show that Vote Forward letters increased voter turnout by 0.8 percentage points among voters who were included in our massive campaign: The Big Send. Vote Forward's letter writing program in 2020 was among the highest-impact, most effective voter turnout programs ever measured in a presidential election. The Progressive Turnout Project shared data in late September 2021, which showed that their Postcards to Swing States campaign using a social pressure approach resulted in a 0.14 percentage point increase in voter turnout in 2020.
It is critical that volunteers prepare letters according to the instructions because Vote Forward campaigns are randomized experiments, and using letter templates to keep the format consistent ensures the integrity of those experiments so we can accurately assess the impact.
Here are a few reasons for writing letters:
- Multiple randomized trials have demonstrated effect sizes for the specific Vote Forward letter template, a hybrid of handwritten and printed text, ranging from 1.4 to 3.4 percentage points in non-presidential elections, to 0.8 percentage points in 2020. That’s a huge effect in the universe of voter turnout interventions.
- As far as we know no one has conducted a head-to-head test of letters vs. postcards, but based on available 2020 data, it is our understanding that postcards showed turnout effects approximately one-quarter that of Vote Forward’s hybrid handwritten letters. In non-presidential election years, it is our understanding that postcard turnout effects are approximately half that of Vote Forward’s hybrid handwritten letters.
- Including the most essential information, such as the date of the election or the URL to request an absentee ballot, in the pre-typed parts of the Vote Forward letter ensures that this information is legible and accurate.
- The hybrid approach is time-efficient. Each letter can be completed quickly because much of the information is already present and need not be handwritten as it would need to be on a postcard.
To view these, you must be a member of the Analyst Institute, but the source material and other voter turnout studies live at: