Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics

Voter Engagement

Partner: UK City Council


Prior to legislative changes in 2013, the majority of UK students were registered to vote automatically and locally on entering university (all individuals residing together on campuses would typically be registered together).   After this time point, each individual was required to register themselves independently. As a result, our City Council partner was interested in finding low-cost, easy-to-implement methods for maintaining high levels of student voter registration.. 

Approach and Method

This project (view paper online) directly tested the effects of different kinds of written communication on student voter registration.  Postcards reminding students to register were sent to over 7000 students.  Some postcards highlighted a small potential monetary gain from registering (Monetary Gain Group), some highlighted the possibility of a small monetary loss from failing to do (Monetary Loss group), whilst some contained only a simple reminder not to miss the chance to vote (Baseline Group).


Messages highlighting the possibility of a small monetary loss for failing to register were statistically most effective in motivating voter registration in this population.  Those highlighting the possibility of a monetary gain did not improve registration rates relative to the baseline. This suggests that attempts to increase or maintain high levels of electoral participation in student populations may profitably include messages that refer to potential losses.



Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics

Sir Clive Granger Building
University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0)115 951 5458
Enquiries: jose.guinotsaporta@nottingham.ac.uk
Experiments: cedex@nottingham.ac.uk