Public Choice

, Volume 167, Issue 3–4, pp 257–276 | Cite as

Ballot order effects in direct democracy elections

  • John G. MatsusakaEmail author


Many political practitioners believe that voters are more likely to approve propositions listed at the top than the bottom of the ballot, potentially distorting democratic decision making, and this belief influences election laws across the United States. Numerous studies have investigated ballot order effects in candidate elections, but there is little evidence for direct democracy elections, and identification of causal effects is challenging. This paper offers two strategies for identifying the effect of ballot order in proposition elections, using data from California during 1958–2014 and Texas during 1986–2015. The evidence suggests that propositions are not advantaged by being listed at the top compared to the bottom of the ballot. Approval rates are lower with more propositions on the ballot.


Direct democracy Initiative Referendum Ballot proposition Ballot order Causality 



For helpful comments and suggestions, I thank Odilon Camara, Dan Klerman, and participants at the Initiatives and Referendums Conference at USC in November 2012 and the CLASS workshop at USC. I thank USC for financial support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Marshall School of Business, Gould School of Law, Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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