“The impact of voter confusion in ranked choice voting”

Lonna Rae AtkesonEli McKown-DawsonJack Santucci, and Kyle L. Saunders in Social Science Quarterly. Abstract:


Election observers have expressed concerns about voter “confusion” under ranked choice voting (RCV) since the 1890s. What is the meaning of “confusing,” and how does it affect behavior? We argue (with much of the literature) that ranking candidates for public office is a cognitively complex task because of a lack of information.


We explore some observable implications of this perspective using exit poll data from the first RCV election in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 2018.


Sixteen percent of voters reported having felt very (6 percent) or somewhat (10 percent) confused, and Hispanic voters were more likely to be confused than white voters. Confused voters report ranking fewer candidates, have lower confidence in ballot-counting accuracy, and are less supportive of RCV than nonconfused voters.


These results raise questions about RCV’s equity, participation costs for voters, ease of use, and longevity.

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