Increasing voter turnout using behavioural insights

Miriam Williams, Jesse Allpress, Esther Rootham
Auckland Council Research and Evaluation Unit RIMU
Publication date:

New Zealand local government elections take place every three years by postal vote. Auckland Council is responsible for ensuring all eligible Aucklanders can participate in the city’s elections. With a voter turnout of less than 40 per cent (38.5 per cent in the 2016 Auckland local body elections), the majority of Aucklanders are either not aware of the opportunity to vote, or chose not to participate. For a sustainable democracy, we need to increase voter participation.

This report is a guide for council staff who are tasked with increasing voter turnout. It draws lessons from behaviour change interventions internationally that have proven successful in increasing voter turnout. Behavioural insights, or behaviour change research, is a field of research that draws upon the disciplines of psychology, economics, health, and marketing. It focuses on using knowledge of the social and environmental drivers of human behaviour to better develop communications campaigns, programmes and policies. In this report we review the behavioural insights literature to reveal a number of ways Auckland Council can increase voter turnout in the 2019 election. The report is structured to provide advice on:

  • choosing the best communication channel(s)
  • developing messages for maximum effectiveness, and
  • encouraging completion of all steps of the local government postal voting process.

Auckland Council technical report TR2018/006


Last updated: 2018-04-19