Political Behavior

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 175–197 | Cite as

On the Causes and Consequences of Ballot Order Effects

  • Marc Meredith
  • Yuval Salant
Original Paper


We investigate the effect of ballot order on the outcomes of California city council and school board elections. Candidates listed first win office between four and five percentage points more often than expected absent order effects. This first candidate advantage is larger in races with more candidates and for higher quality candidates. The first candidate advantage is similar across contexts: the magnitude of the effect is not statistically distinguishable in city council and in school board elections, in races with and without an open seat, and in races consolidated and not consolidated with statewide general elections. Standard satisficing models cannot fully explain ballot order effects in our dataset of multi-winner elections.


Ballot order effects School boards City council Satisificing 



We thank Jon Bendor, Jonah Berger, Michael Hanmer, Daniel Kessler, Peter Reiss, and seminar participants at MIT, Stanford, and the 2008 American Political Science Association Annual Meeting for comments and suggestions. We also thank Seth Hill for providing us with the individual-level ballot data. Salant acknowledges the financial support of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, the Leonard W. and Shirley R. Ely Fellowship. Replication data is available at


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences, Kellogg School of ManagementNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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