, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 1-27

A Low Information Theory of Ballot Position Effect

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Abstract

This article suggests a theory of ballot position effect based on the amount of information present in the electorate while accounting for several alternative hypotheses. The more information that voters have, all other factors held constant, the less a role ballot position will play. Additionally, the role of electoral institutions in mitigating or magnifying the effect is considered. The theories are tested with precinct-level data from city council elections held in Peoria, Illinois, from 1983 through 1999. Position effect is found to account for a bonus of 0.7% to 5.2% of the precinct-level vote share per position on the ballot. The level of aggregate information and the institutional setting explain a significant share of ballot position effect, even while examined in the presence of alternative explanations such as incumbency, endorsement, campaign expenditure, gender, and race.