Monday, 16 February 2004

Does ballot order matter in elections?

An interesting new working paper crossed the POLMETH list today by Daniel Ho (Harvard) and Kosuke Imai (Princeton), entitled “Shaken, Not Stirred: Evidence on Ballot Order Effects from the California Alphabet Lottery, 1978–2002.” Here’s the abstract:

We analyze a natural experiment to answer the longstanding question of whether the name order of candidates on ballots affects election outcomes. Since 1975, California law has mandated randomizing the ballot order with a lottery, where alphabet letters would be “shaken vigorously” and selected from a container. Previous studies, relying overwhelmingly on non-randomized data, have yielded conflicting results about whether ballot order effects even exist. Using improved statistical methods, our analysis of statewide elections from 1978 to 2002 reveals that in general elections ballot order has a significant impact only on minor party candidates and candidates for nonpartisan offices. In primaries, however, being listed first benefits everyone. In fact, ballot order might have changed the winner in roughly nine percent of all primary races examined. These results are largely consistent with a theory of partisan cuing. We propose that all electoral jurisdictions randomize ballot order to minimize ballot effects.

If that seems interesting to you, go read the whole thing.

It also follows the “cute colon” convention previously discussed here at SN.