The Freakonomics authors, Levitt and Dubner wrote a book on how to think like a freak. The core argument is that a ‘freak’ is always doing experiments to create data to learn about the real world.
I’ve been doing experiments as far back as I can remember.
This blog is about a serious issue. I had created a group called Research in Politics. Having run several campaigns, I wondered ‘what was effective in campaigning?’. I got a chance to test door to door house calls on election day, considered very important by everyone in politics.
Jack Shelley a San Francisco Congressman was elected mayor. That created an open seat in a special January 1964 election in San Francisco.
I designed a Latin Square research design, often used in agriculture. It is a 5x5 matrix that allows two issues to be tested at the same time. On one corner I had 5 random precincts that had intense Republican efforts to get out the vote. On the next corner 5 precincts with no get out the vote efforts, the third corner had 5 random precincts with intense Democrat get out the vote efforts. The fourth corner no efforts. The rest of the matrix was filled in with levels of effort from 2 to 5 by both the Republicans and Democrats. I personally worked in the intense Republican precincts to make sure every political volunteer was working hard.
I got the Democrats to cooperate because everyone wanted to know the results. A special election was the best case scenario because the voter turnout was half of a regular election turnout and a personal door to door visit should have the greatest impact.
Everyone was shocked at the results. No difference between intense get out the vote effort and no effort.
Everyone was so shocked that they cooperated again in an identical test in Modesto for another special election for Congress. Same results.
Nobody had changed their view of the importance of election day get out the vote. The sophisticated campaign managers who knew about my research came to the conclusion: ‘we need to use volunteers for something whether it works or not; get out the vote keeps volunteers busy.’