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The Impact of Candidate Name Order on Election Outcomes

Joanne M. Miller and Jon A. Krosnick
The Public Opinion Quarterly
Vol. 62, No. 3 (Autumn, 1998), pp. 291-330
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2749662
Page Count: 40
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The Impact of Candidate Name Order on Election Outcomes
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Abstract

Perceived obligations of citizen duty may compel some people to cast votes in democratic elections even when they lack sufficient information to make informed choices. Psychological theories of choice suggest that, under such circumstances, voters may be influenced by the order in which candidates' names appear on the ballot, biasing people toward candidates listed early (when voters can generate reasons to vote for the candidates) or late (when voters can only generate reasons to vote against the candidates). Consistent with this reasoning, analyses of 1992 election returns in Ohio revealed that reliable name-order effects appeared in 48 percent of 118 races, nearly alwa ys advantaging candidates listed first, by an average of 2.5 percent. These effects were stronger in races when party affilations were not listed, when races had been minimally publicized, and when no incumbent was involved. Further-more, name-order effects were stronger in counties where voters were less knowledgeable about politics. All of this suggests that ballot structure influences election outcomes when voters lack substantive bases for candidate preferences. However, the magnitude of name-order effects observed here suggests that they have probably done little to undermine the democratic process in contemporary America.

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