Alan S. Gerber's research while affiliated with Yale University and other places

Publications (168)

Article
Full-text available
What types of public health messages are effective at changing people’s beliefs and intentions to practice social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19? We conducted two randomized experiments in summer 2020 that assigned respondents to read a public health message and then measured their beliefs and behavioral intentions across a wide variety...
Article
Political campaigns frequently emphasize the material stakes at play in election outcomes to motivate participation. However, field-experimental academic work has given greater attention to other aspects of voters' decisions to participate despite theoretical models of turnout and substantial observational work signaling that a contest's perceived...
Article
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The development of COVID-19 vaccines was an important breakthrough for ending the pandemic. However, people refusing to get vaccinated diminish the level of community protection afforded to others. In the United States, White evangelicals have proven to be a particularly difficult group to convince to get vaccinated. Here we investigate whether thi...
Article
Widespread vaccination remains the best option for controlling the spread of COVID-19 and ending the pandemic. Despite the considerable disruption the virus has caused to people’s lives, many people are still hesitant to receive a vaccine. Without high rates of uptake, however, the pandemic is likely to be prolonged. Here we use two survey experime...
Article
Why do most winning candidates adhere to partisan orthodox positions? While some prior work has examined how issue positions signal candidate ideology, this paper instead focuses on how candidate issue positions affect evaluations of valence. In light of important inferential limitations in using the correlation between observed candidate positions...
Article
The global spread of COVID-19 has created an urgent need for a safe and effective vaccine. However, in the United States, the politicization of the vaccine approval process, including which public figures are endorsing it, could undermine beliefs about its safety and efficacy and willingness to receive it. Using a pair of randomized survey experime...
Article
Do small wording differences in message-based behavioral interventions have outsized effects on behavior? An influential initial study, examining this question in the domain of political behavior using two small-scale field experiments, argues that subtle linguistic cues in voter mobilization messages describing someone as a voter (noun) instead of...
Preprint
Full-text available
The global spread of COVID-19 has created an urgent need for a safe and effective vaccine. However, even if a safe and medically effective vaccine is developed, hesitancy by citizens to receive it would undercut its effectiveness as a tool for limiting the spread of COVID-19. 1,2,3 A potential driver of hesitancy in the United States is the politic...
Preprint
Full-text available
What types of public health messages are effective at changing people’s beliefs and intentions to practice social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19? We conducted two randomized experiments that assigned respondents to read a public health message and then measured their beliefs and behavioral intentions across a wide variety of outcomes. Us...
Chapter
This chapter examines how the politics surrounding efforts to address the medical evidence problem have been “unhealthy.” It shows that while the pragmatic case for bringing standardized evidence more systematically to bear on decisions in health care is compelling, federal politicians took only modest actions to support steps to identify and elimi...
Chapter
This chapter presents a detailed case study of a sham knee surgery case. The knee case is illustrative of systemic problems in the promotion of evidence-based medicine. Clearly, many medical societies are failing to take seriously their professional responsibility to deliver evidence-based care to patients and ensure that the nation does not squand...
Chapter
This chapter focuses on the evidence-based medicine (EBM) reform project. Ultimately, if the EBM project is to realize its aspirational goal to improve the quality and efficiency of U.S. medical care, it is necessary but insufficient for research agencies like Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to endure. In the long run, patterns...
Book
The U.S. medical system is touted as the most advanced in the world, yet many common treatments are not based on sound science. This book sheds new light on why the government's response to this troubling situation has been so inadequate, and why efforts to improve the evidence base of U.S. medicine continue to cause so much political controversy....
Chapter
This chapter evaluates the politics of the Obama administration's effort to promote comparative effectiveness research (CER) as the scientific foundation of health care quality improvements and cost control. It argues that elite polarization and a near parity of partisan competition degrades government problem solving in two ways. First, it creates...
Chapter
This chapter discusses the results of national public opinion surveys that illuminate how ordinary citizens think about the medical evidence problem. The surveys demonstrate that doctors possess the influence, prestige, and standing to play a leadership role in educating the public about the inefficiencies and waste of the U.S. health care system....
Chapter
This chapter defines the “medical guesswork” problem and explains how the poor integration of evidence into clinical decision making harms the performance of the health care sector. The lack of an effective and politically sustainable response to the medical evidence problem—and this is a sad indictment of the U.S. political system—would be somewha...
Chapter
This chapter explores the institutional roots of medical professionalism in the United States. It examines why the U.S. health care system delegates therapeutic authority to individual doctors and medical societies, with little centralized oversight in programs like Medicare. The chapter also presents findings from a national survey of physicians t...
Article
When does increasing mobilization effort increase turnout? Recent experiments find second calls containing a reminder to vote increase turnout beyond an initial contact. We argue existing studies cannot explain why reminder calls are effective because they test bundled treatments including a late mobilization attempt, a late mobilization attempt gi...
Article
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What makes us willing to sacrifice our own self-interest for another person? Humans can forgo short-term individual gain to achieve long-term benefits 1–4 —but long-run self-interest cannot fully explain unselfish behaviour ⁵ . Collaboration in our evolutionary past may have played a role in shaping an innate human sense of distributive justice ⁶ ,...
Article
Proparticipatory norms play a central role in driving turnout. However, a broad norm that people are supposed to vote cannot explain why some people fail to participate or why rates of participation vary sharply across elections. We argue that the norm of voting extends beyond the mere act of voting. We present empirical evidence supporting the pos...
Data
Top-level secrecy regression models used to generate estimates reported in Fig 2. (DOCX)
Data
Formal secrecy protection regression models used to generate estimates reported in Fig 3. (DOCX)
Data
Distribution of responses to items reported in Fig 1. (DOCX)
Data
Other voters and ballot secrecy regression models used to generate estimates reported in Fig 4. (DOCX)
Data
Sampling methodology and question wording. (DOCX)
Article
Are mobilization appeals that include information about descriptive voting norms more effective at increasing turnout when the descriptive norm is framed positively (by highlighting a referent’s desirable behavior and encouraging consistent behavior) instead of negatively (by highlighting a referent’s lack of desirable behavior as problematic but a...
Article
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Democratic theory and prior empirical work support the view that political participation, by promoting social integration and pro-social attitudes, reduces one’s propensity for anti-social behavior, such as committing crimes. Previous investigations examine observational data, which are vulnerable to bias if omitted factors affect both propensity t...
Data
Supplementary materials. This document contains additional information about the treatment design and empirical analyses. (PDF)
Article
Full-text available
Given the persistence of public doubts about the integrity of ballot secrecy, which depress turnout, two prior experiments have shown precise evidence that both official governmental and unofficial mobilization campaigns providing assurances about ballot secrecy increase turnout among recently registered nonvoters. To assess whether these findings...
Article
An ongoing debate in political psychology is about whether small wording differences have outsized behavioral effects. A leading example is whether subtle linguistic cues embedded in voter mobilization messages dramatically increase turnout. An initial study analyzing two small-scale field experiments argued that describing someone as a voter (noun...
Article
The rise in mass incarceration provides a growing impetus to understand the effect that interactions with the criminal justice system have on political participation. While a substantial body of prior research studies the political consequences of criminal disenfranchisement, less work examines why eligible ex-felons vote at very low rates. We use...
Article
Doubts about the integrity of ballot secrecy persist and depress political participation among the American public. Prior experiments have shown that official communications directly addressing these doubts increase turnout among recently registered voters who had not previously voted, but evaluations of similar messages sent by nongovernmental cam...
Article
Research on turnout in presidential elections has shown that “battleground” state status has modest effects on turnout, raising the question of why individuals vote even in noncompetitive states. We present experimental evidence showing that the typically small effect of battleground status on turnout may be tied to the fact that voting norms are i...
Article
Missing outcome data plague many randomized experiments. Common solutions rely on ignorability assumptions that may not be credible in all applications. We propose a method for confronting missing outcome data that makes fairly weak assumptions but can still yield informative bounds on the average treatment effect. Our approach is based on a combin...
Article
Prior experiments show that campaign communications revealing subjects’ past turnout and applying social pressure to vote (the “Self” treatment) increase turnout. However, nearly all existing studies are conducted in low-salience elections, raising concerns that published findings are not generalizable and are an artifact of sample selection and pu...
Article
Research on how economic factors affect attitudes toward immigration often focuses on labor market effects, concluding that, because workers’ skill levels do not predict opposition to low- versus highly skilled immigration, economic self-interest does not shape policy attitudes. We conduct a new survey to measure beliefs about a range of economic,...
Chapter
This essay reviews the ways in which field experiments have been used to study political participation. We begin by charting the intellectual history of field experimentation in political science. We explain why the advent of field experimentation in recent years represents an important advance over previous work, which relied principally on nonexp...
Article
Primary election participation in the United States is consistently lower than general election turnout. Despite this well-documented voting gap, our knowledge is limited as to the individual-level factors that explain why some general election voters do not show up for primary contests. We provide important insights into this question, using a nov...
Article
Whether labeled a replication effort or an attempt to gauge robustness [a distinction discussed in our paper (1)], our study finds that swapping nouns for verbs in a treatment script does not produce the enormous 11–14 percentage-point turnout increase reported by Bryan et al. (2), but instead produces a precisely estimated zero-treatment effect. B...
Article
Field experiments on voter mobilization enable researchers to test theoretical propositions while at the same time addressing practical questions that confront campaigns. This confluence of interests has led to increasing collaboration between researchers and campaign organizations, which in turn has produced a rapid accumulation of experiments on...
Article
One of the most important recent developments in social psychology is the discovery of minor interventions that have large and enduring effects on behavior. A leading example of this class of results is in the work by Bryan et al. [Bryan CJ, Walton GM, Rogers T, Dweck CS (2011) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108(31):12653-12656], which shows that administe...
Article
One of the most important recent developments in social psychology is the discovery of minor interventions that have large and enduring effects on behavior. A leading example of this class of results is Bryan et al. (2011), which shows that administering a set of survey items worded so that subjects think of themselves as voters (noun treatment) ra...
Article
Partisanship seems to affect factual beliefs about politics. For example, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say that the deficit rose during the Clinton administration; Democrats are more likely to say that inflation rose under Reagan. What remains unclear is whether such patterns reflect differing beliefs among partisans or instead ref...
Article
Reporting Balance Tables, Response Rates and Manipulation Checks in Experimental Research: A Reply from the Committee that Prepared the Reporting Guidelines - Volume 2 Issue 2 - Alan S. Gerber, Kevin Arceneaux, Cheryl Boudreau, Conor Dowling, D. Sunshine Hillygus
Article
How does America's high rate of incarceration shape political participation? Few studies have examined the direct effects of incarceration on patterns of political engagement. Answering this question is particularly relevant for the 93% of formerly incarcerated individuals who are eligible to vote. Drawing on new administrative data from Connecticu...
Article
This article measures the social rewards and sanctions associated with voting. A series of survey experiments shows that information about whether a person votes directly affects how favorably that person is viewed. Importantly, the study also compares the rewards and sanctions associated with voting to other activities, including the decisions to...
Article
Recent research finds that doubts about the integrity of the secret ballot as an institution persist among the American public. We build on this finding by providing novel field experimental evidence about how information about ballot secrecy protections can increase turnout among registered voters who had not previously voted. First, we show that...
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The Standards Committee of the Experimental Research Section of the American Political Science Association has produced reporting guidelines that aim to increase the clarity of experimental research reports. This paper describes the Committee's rationale for the guidelines it developed and includes our Recommended Reporting Standards for Experiment...
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There is growing appreciation for the advantages of experimentation in the social sciences. Policy-relevant claims that in the past were backed by theoretical arguments and inconclusive correlations are now being investigated using more credible methods. Changes have been particularly pronounced in development economics, where hundreds of randomize...
Article
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We examine whether Big Five personality traits are associated with heterogeneous responses to commonly used Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) appeals in both a survey and a field experiment. The results suggest that Big Five personality traits affect how people respond to the costs and benefits of voting highlighted in GOTV appeals. Our evidence also suggest...
Article
The Obama administration has made a major investment in comparative effectiveness research (CER) to learn what treatments work best for which patients. CER has the potential to reduce wasteful medical spending and improve patient outcomes, but the political sustainability of this initiative remains unclear due to concerns that it will threaten the...
Article
Should people discuss their vote choices with others? On one hand, many people argue that openly deliberating with others can lead to better decision-making. On the other hand, institutions like the secret ballot imply that keeping these choices secret has value, perhaps as a means of insulating people from unwanted social pressures. This paper exa...
Article
What effect does moving to all-mail elections have on participation? On one hand, all registered voters automatically receive a ballot to return by mail at their convenience. On the other hand, the social aspect of the polling place, and the focal point of election day, is lost. Current estimates of the effect of all-mail elections on turnout are a...
Article
Missing outcome data plague many randomized experiments. Common solutions such as selection, imputation, and reweighting models rest on untestable assumptions that may not be credible. We propose a measurement and estimation strategy for dealing with missing outcome data that makes minimal assumptions but still yields substantively informative boun...
Article
Recent research demonstrates growing scholarly interest in the relationship between personality characteristics and political attitudes and behaviors. In this article we present analysis using data from a national panel survey conducted in two waves—the first prior to the 2010 U.S. midterm election, the second after it. We assess the stability of a...
Article
Social networks play a prominent role in the explanation of many political phenomena. Using data from a nationally representative survey of registered voters conducted around the 2008 U.S. presidential election, we document three findings. First, we show that during this period, people discussed politics as frequently as (or more frequently than) o...
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The effectiveness of prerecorded phone calls was assessed in the context of a Texas Republican primary election that featured a contest for state Supreme Court. Automated calls endorsing one of the judicial candidates were recorded by the sitting Republican governor and directed at more than a quarter million people identified as likely voters and...
Article
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New democracies go to great lengths to implement institutional protections of the electoral process. However, in this paper we present evidence that shows that even in the United States—where the secret ballot has been in place for generations—doubts about the secrecy of the voting process are surprisingly prevalent. Many say that their cast ballot...
Article
A secret ballot is implemented to free voters to choose candidates without fear of economic or social repercussions, but the extent to which the secrecy achieves this goal depends on whether people believe their choices are kept secret, rather than whether they actually are. Findings from a nationally representative sample show that large proportio...
Article
Although the secret ballot has long been secured as a legal matter in the United States, formal secrecy protections are not equivalent to convincing citizens that they may vote privately and without fear of reprisal. We present survey evidence that those who have not previously voted are particularly likely to voice doubts about the secrecy of the...
Article
THE CALIFORNIA Journal of Politics & Policy Volume 3, Issue 4 The Politicization of Evidence-Based Medicine: The Limits of Pragmatic Problem Solving in an Era of Polarization Alan S. Gerber Yale University Eric M. Patashnik University of Virginia Abstract A key test of a political system is its capacity to solve important societal problems. Few pol...
Article
If voters punish elected officials who adopt incongruent policy positions, then representatives should take popular positions to avoid electoral sanction. Yet, scholars have noted gaps between citizen preferences and the behavior of elected officials. We argue that one important source of this gap is that individual citizens believe they are someti...
Article
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Using data from two recent surveys, we analyze the relationship between Big Five personality traits and political participation. We examine forms of participation that differ in domain (local politics vs. national campaigns) as well as in the amount of conflict involved, whether they are likely to yield instrumental benefits, and whether they are l...
Article
Recent political science research on the effects of core personality traits — the Big Five — contributes to our understanding of how people interact with their political environments. This research examines how individual-level variations in broad, stable psychological characteristics affect individual-level political outcomes. In this article, we...
Article
The fact that many citizens fail to vote is often cited to motivate others to vote. Psychological research on descriptive social norms suggests that emphasizing the opposite – that many do vote – would be a more effective message. In two get-out-the-vote field experiments, we find that messages emphasizing low expected turnout are less effective at...
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We report the results of the first large-scale experiment involving paid political advertising. During the opening months of a 2006 gubernatorial campaign, approximately $2 million of television and radio advertising on behalf of the incumbent candidate was deployed experimentally. In each experimental media market, the launch date and volume of te...
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This paper reports the results of the first large-scale experiment involving paid political advertising. During the opening months of the 2006 Texas gubernatorial campaign, approximately $2 million of television and radio advertising on behalf of the incumbent candidate were experimentally deployed. In each experimental media market, the launch dat...
Article
In this article, we examine the relationship between dispositional personality traits (the Big Five) and the consumption of political information. We present detailed hypotheses about the characteristics of the political environment that are likely to affect the appeal of politics and political information in general for individuals with different...
Article
Using research to develop treatment guidelines is one way to lower medical costs and improve care. However, findings from a national survey show that the public is skeptical about this approach. Specifically, the public finds arguments against establishing research-based treatment guidelines more convincing than arguments in favor of it. Our findin...
Article
We conducted two national surveys of public opinion about comparative effectiveness research and the integration of findings from the research into clinical practice. The first survey found broad support for using research results to provide information, but less support for using them to allocate government resources or mandate treatment decisions...
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Prior experimental research has demonstrated that voter turnout rises substantially when people receive mailings that indicate whether they voted in previous elections. This effect suggests that voters are sensitive to whether their compliance with the norm of voting is being monitored. The present study extends this line of research by investigati...