Text message pilot in the 2022 county elections
In connection with the 2022 county elections, Finland conducted a pilot study to examine the impact of text message reminders on voter turnout among young people. In the study, a group of randomly selected 18–29-year-olds received two text messages informing them about their right to vote and the schedule of the county elections. The first message was sent a day before the advance voting period started and the other one a day before the actual election day. Around 30,000 young eligible voters received a text message in Finnish and Swedish. There were three differently worded versions of the message. The control group that did not receive the messages comprised about 20,000 young people.
The young people who received the text messages had a slightly higher voter turnout than those in the control group. Voter turnout increased by about one percentage point to 32 per cent among the young people who received the text messages. A similar effect was observed in voter turnout among people living in the same household as the young people who received the messages.
The impact of the text messages was proportionally greater among those young people who vote less frequently. The activeness of young voters in relation to older voter groups also increased. In other words, the text message pilot was able to reduce gaps in voting activity both within the young people’s age group and between the different age groups.
Three different versions of the message were sent to young people, as the study also assessed the effectiveness of the messages’ content. The study found that the simplest message was slightly more effective than the others in activating young people to vote.
Similar text message reminders have been successfully tested in Denmark and Norway in recent years. In both countries, the text messages increased voter turnout.
The study used random sampling, meaning that the participants were randomly selected among voters aged between 18 and 29 whose telephone number was available and whose municipality of residence was using the electronic voting register. A research team led by Professor Janne Tukiainen was responsible for analysing the research data.
The pilot study was carried out as part of the Behavioural Advisory project of the Prime Minister’s Office in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice and the University of Turku.
Memorandum: Pilot Study on Text Message Reminders in County Elections (in Finnish)
Working paper: Who is mobilized to vote by short text messages? Evidence from a nationwide field experiment with young voters
Working group on behavioural foresight and knowledge in future administration, Maarit Lassander (PhD, Psychology), Senior Specialist, tel. +358 295 160 037, [email protected], Prime Minister's Office
Janne Tukiainen, Professor, tel. +358 50 308 3620, [email protected], University of Turku
Niklas Wilhelmsson, Head of Unit, [email protected], tel. +358 295 150 348, Ministry of Justice