Publications of Eric Chen

The impact of candidate name order on election outcomes in North Dakota

A number of studies have explored the possibility that the ordering of candidates’ names on the ballot might influence how those candidates perform on election day. Strong evidence of an order effect comes from investigations of election returns in states that implemented quasi-random assignment of candidate name orders to voters. Although most such studies have identified benefits for earlier-listed candidates, much of the evidence comes from a limited set of elections in only a handful of states. This paper expands our understanding of order effects to 31 general elections held in North Dakota between 2000 and 2006; these include all state-wide races involving 2 candidates. A primacy effect appeared in 80% of the contests. The first ballot position reaped the largest benefits in nonpartisan contests and in presidential election years. These findings are consistent with earlier studies from other states and provide evidence in line with proposals that a lack of information and ambivalence underlie candidate name order effects.