Thursday, April 15, 2010

What is the best place for a candidate to be on the ballot paper?

I grew up with the idea that it is best to come first on the ballot paper, but research being presented todaya paper being given at the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference suggests this may not be the case.

Dr Andy Johnson of Coventry University is presenting preliminary findings of his research into whether position of a candidate’s name on a ballot paper can influence people’s voting.

In his study 720 students took part in a mock election. They were asked to vote for one ‘candidate’ on a ballot paper of six candidates. Each candidate was represented by a meaningless three-letter code. Each code was presented at each of the six positions an equal number of times, across all the ballot papers.

The results showed voters avoided candidates at the top and bottom of the paper. More votes were cast for the candidates midway down the ballot paper.

Dr Johnson said:
“I started this study after the European elections last June when the ballot paper in my area had around 10 different political parties on it. Although there has been some research in this field, I wanted to explore if position on the ballot paper makes a difference to how people vote irrespective of political affiliation. I’m doing further research using names of real political parties and hope to present some of these findings at the conference”.
This is preliminary research and it is important to note that the "election" involved , with no further information about why someone should or shouldn’t put a cross next to the code. It was purely about those codes' position on the paper.

Still, I had better take this opportunity to wish Andrew Aalders-Dunthorne all the best in Suffolk Central and Ipswich North.


Mark Pack said...

Curious that these results seem to be so counter to the analyses that have been done of actual election results and whether ballot ordering makes a difference. (Conclusion: yes, being top of the paper gives a bonus.)

Did the paper give any idea of possible reasons as to why the previous research could be wrong?

dreamingspire said...

Given the recent advances in printing technology, the ballot papers should be printed with all possible permutations. With 6 candidates that I think means 240 different versions. Each paper printed having a different arrangement from the one before it and the one after it.

crewegwyn said...

dreamingspire :-

would make the count interesting !!

Radders said...

I wonder what the impact is on multi-member elections where you have multiple Xs?
I remember my mum's parish election where she was 13th on the paper (of 15) with 12 to be elected.
A significant chunk of voters used their Xs for the top 12.

dreamingspire said...

@crewegwyn: its time that we had electronic counting machines...