Political Science ETDs


Lisa Bryant

Publication Date



This study explores the challenges of getting unlikely voters to the polls and mobilizing new citizens for participation in politics, focusing on racial and ethnic minorities, as well as naturalized citizens. Findings suggest that mobilization may not be a one-size-fits-all approach, as many campaigns assume, but rather that when engaging low-propensity voters, especially those who are unfamiliar with American political parties or the election process, additional factors such as co-ethnic contact and community may play a role. The findings are based on four field experiments conducted during the 2010 general election in four major urban areas in California. The field experiments were conducted using traditional mobilization techniques, including direct mailers, live phone calls and door-to-door canvassing; and utilized the same scripts in all locations and across minority groups. An examination of heterogeneity of treatment effects shows that mobilization is not equally effective for all people; there is variation by mode of contact, geography, nativity and ethnicity. This study is novel in that most mobilization studies target only one minority group, in one location, and often vary either only the mobilization message being delivered or the mode of contact used. This approach, modeled after real world mobilization campaigns, allows me to have a deeper understanding of how large mobilization efforts really impact various groups of citizens. This study also includes a survey of a subset of the experimental sample to gather additional individual level information such as measures of group consciousness, political interest, political knowledge, length of residency and SES information. Coupling the survey data with the experimental data, allows for a deeper understanding of how mobilization works beyond controlling for publicly available demographic information. The results show that Asian Americans are more difficult to contact, as are foreign-born citizens who have been in the U.S. an extended period of time. Those who were less interested in politics and those who were less likely to engage in political discussion were also less likely to be successfully contacted.

Degree Name

Political Science

Level of Degree


Department Name

Political Science

First Committee Member (Chair)

Mann, Christopher B.

Second Committee Member

Alvarez, R. Michael

Third Committee Member

Krebs, Timothy B.

Fourth Committee Member

Sanchez, Gabriel R.




mobilization, political participation, Latino, Asian American, voter, field experiement, voting, contact

Document Type