en pl
en pl


Show issue
Issue 35

Primacy Effects and Voting Methods (Literature Review)

Steven Linder
University of California

(35) Decyzje

DOI 10.7206/DEC.1733-0092.151


The primacy effect has long been considered a decisive factor in determining election outcomes and has consequently developed a robust literature dedicated to studying it in different scenarios and contexts. However, existing research has offered limited insight into how the choice of voting method, particularly by-mail voting, may infl uence its impact on elections by altering how and when voters participate. This article fi rst reviews why the primacy effect exists, how researchers identify its infl uence, and its overall impact on election outcomes. It then discusses why the use of by-mail voting
should be expected to alter the primacy effect, and analyzes two works where this relationship has been explored. Their results highlight several of the issues faced when trying to examine this relationship, but also indicate that further study is warranted and likely to be fruitful.


  1. Alvarez, R., Beckett, D., & Stewart, C. (2013). Voting Technology, Vote-by-Mail, and Residual Votes in California, 1990—2010. Political Research Quarterly, 66(3), 658–670. [Google Scholar]
  2. Alvarez, R., Levin, I., & Sinclair, J. (2012). Making Voting Easier: Convenience Voting in the 2008 Presidential Election. Political Research Quarterly, 65(2), 248–262. [Google Scholar]
  3. Alvarez, R. M., Sinclair, B., & Hasen, R. L. (2006). How Much Is Enough? The “Ballot Order Effect” and the Use of Social Science Research in Election Law Disputes. Election Law Journal: Rules, Politics, and Policy, 5(1), 40–56. [Google Scholar]
  4. Augenblick, N., & Nicholson, S. (2016). Ballot Position, Choice Fatigue, and Voter Behavior. The Review of Economic Studies, 83(2), 460–480. [Google Scholar]
  5. Barreto, M., Streb, M., Marks, M., & Guerra, F. (2006). Do Absentee Voters Differ from Polling Place Voters? New Evidence from California. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 70(2), 224–234. [Google Scholar]
  6. Binder, M., Childers, M., & Johnson, N. (2015). Campaigns and the Mitigation of Framing Effects on Voting Behavior: A Natural and Field Experiment. Political Behavior, 37(3), 703–722. [Google Scholar]
  7. Blom-Hansen, J., Elklit J., Serritzlew S., & Villadsen L. (2016). Ballot Position and Election Results: Evidence from a Natural Experiment. Electoral Studies, 44, 172–183. [Google Scholar]
  8. Boehmke, F. J., Branton, R. P., Dillingham, G., & Witmer, R. C. (2012). Close Enough for Comfort? The Spatial Structure of Interest and Information in Ballot Measure Elections. The Journal of Politics, 74(3), 827–839. [Google Scholar]
  9. Bonneau, C. W., & Cann, D. M. (2015). Party Identifi cation and Vote Choice in Partisan and Nonpartisan Elections. Political Behavior, 37(1), 43–66. [Google Scholar]
  10. Bowler, S., Donovan, T., & Happ, T. (1992). Ballot Propositions and Information Costs: Direct Democracy and the Fatigued Voter. Western Political Quarterly, 45(2), 559–568. [Google Scholar]
  11. Brockington, D. (2003). A Low Information Theory of Ballot Position Effect. Political Behavior, 25(1), 1–27. [Google Scholar]
  12. Darcy, R. (1986). Position Effects with Party Column Ballots. The Western Political Quarterly, 39(4), 648–662. [Google Scholar]
  13. Darcy, R. (1998). Position Effects in Multimember Districts: The New Hampshire House of Representatives, 1972-1994. Polity, 30(4), 691–703. [Google Scholar]
  14. Darcy, R., & Schneider, A. (1989). Confusing Ballots, Roll-Off, and the Black Vote. The Western Political Quarterly, 42(3), 347–364. [Google Scholar]
  15. Däubler, T., & Rudolph, L. (2020). Cue-Taking, Satisfi cing, or Both? Quasi-Experimental Evidence for Ballot Position Effects. Political Behavior, 42(2), 625–652. [Google Scholar]
  16. Devroe, R., & Wauters, B. (2020). Does High on the Ballot Means Highly Competent? Explaining the Ballot Position Effect in List-PR Systems. Acta Politica, 55(3), 454–471. [Google Scholar]
  17. Dubin, J., & Kalsow, G. (1996). Comparing Absentee and Precinct Voters: A View over Time. Political Behavior, 18(4), 369–392. [Google Scholar]
  18. Edwards, B. (2015). Alphabetically Ordered Ballots and the Composition of American Legislatures. State Politics & Policy Quarterly, 15(2), 171–191. [Google Scholar]
  19. Faas, T., & Schoen, H. (2006). The Importance of Being First: Effects of Candidates’ List Positions in the 2003 Bavarian State Election. Electoral Studies, 25(1), 91–102. [Google Scholar]
  20. Flis, J., & Kaminski, M., (2021). Party-related primacy effects in proportional representation systems: Evidence from a natural experiment in Polish local elections. Public Choice, forthcoming. [Google Scholar]
  21. Grant, D. (2017). The Ballot Order Effect Is Huge: Evidence from Texas. Public Choice, 172(3–4), 421–442. [Google Scholar]
  22. Geys, B., & Heyndels, B. (2003). Ballot Layout Effects in the 1995 Elections of the Brussels’ Government. Public Choice, 116(1–2), 147–164. [Google Scholar]
  23. Hamilton, J. T., & Ladd, H. F. (1996). Biased ballots? The impact of ballot structure on North Carolina elections in 1992. Public Choice, 87(3–4), 259–280. [Google Scholar]
  24. Hansford, T., & Gomez, B. (2010). Estimating the Electoral Effects of Voter Turnout. The American Political Science Review, 104(2), 268–288. [Google Scholar]
  25. Ho, D., & Imai K. (2008). Estimating Causal Effects of Ballot Order from a Randomized Natural Experiment: The California Alphabet Lottery, 1978–2002. Public Opinion Quarterly, 72(2), 216–240. [Google Scholar]
  26. Jankowski, M., Frank, T. (2021). Ballot Position Effects in Open-List PR Systems: The Moderating Impact of Postal Voting. Acta Politica, 1–22. [Google Scholar]
  27. Johnson, A., & Miles, C. (2011). Order Effects of Ballot Position without Information-Induced Confirmatory Bias. British Politics, 6(4), 479–90. [Google Scholar]
  28. Karp, J., & Banducci, S. (2000). Going Postal: How All-Mail Elections Influence Turnout. Political Behavior, 22(3), 223–239. [Google Scholar]
  29. Klein, D., & Baum, L. (2001). Ballot Information and Voting Decisions in Judicial Elections. Political Research Quarterly, 54(4), 709–728. [Google Scholar]
  30. Kim, N., Krosnick, J., & Casasanto, D. (2015). Moderators of Candidate Name-Order Effects in Elections: An Experiment. Political Psychology, 36(5), 525–542. [Google Scholar]
  31. Kimball, D. (2005). Ballot Design and Unrecorded Votes on Paper-Based Ballots. Public Opinion Quarterly, 69(4), 508–529. [Google Scholar]
  32. Kimball, D., & Kropf, M. (2005). Ballot Design and Unrecorded Votes on Paper-Based Ballots. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 69(4), 508–529. [Google Scholar]
  33. King, A., & Leigh, A. (2009). Are Ballot Order Effects Heterogeneous? Social Science Quarterly, 90(1), 71–87. [Google Scholar]
  34. Koppell, J. G., & Steen, J. A. (2004). The Effects of Ballot Position on Election Outcomes. The Journal of Politics, 66(1), 267–281. [Google Scholar]
  35. Lijphart, A., & López Pintor, R. (1988). Alphabetic bias in partisan elections: Patterns of voting for the Spanish Senate, 1982 and 1986. Electoral Studies, 7(3), 225–231. [Google Scholar]
  36. Lutz, G. (2010). First Come, First Served: The Effect of Ballot Position on Electoral Success in Open Ballot PR Elections. Representation, 46(2), 167–181. [Google Scholar]
  37. Marcinkiewicz, K. (2014). Electoral Contexts That Assist Voter Coordination: Ballot Position Effects in Poland. Electoral Studies, 33, 322–34. [Google Scholar]
  38. Matson, M., & Fine, T. S. (2006). Gender, Ethnicity, and Ballot Information: Ballot Cues in Low-Information Elections. State Politics & Policy Quarterly, 6(1), 49–72. [Google Scholar]
  39. Meredith, M., & Salant, Y. (2013). On the Causes and Consequences of Ballot Order Effects. Political Behavior, 35(1), 175–197. [Google Scholar]
  40. Miller, J., & Krosnick, J. (1998). The Impact of Candidate Name Order on Election Outcomes. Public Opinion Quarterly, 62(3), 291–330. [Google Scholar]
  41. Niemi, R., & Herrnson, P. (2003). Beyond the Butterfl y: The Complexity of U.S. Ballots. Perspective on Politics, 1(02), 317–326. [Google Scholar]
  42. Pasek, J., Schneider, D., Krosnick, J., Tahk, A., Ophir, E., & Milligan, C. (2014). Prevalence and Moderators of the Candidate Name-Order Effect. Public Opinion Quarterly, 78(2), 416–439. [Google Scholar]
  43. Patterson, S., & Caldeira, G. (1985). Mailing In the Vote: Correlates and Consequences of Absentee Voting. American Journal of Political Science, 29(4), 766–788. [Google Scholar]
  44. Pierzgalski, M., Górecki M., & Stępień, P. (2020). Ballot Paper Design and Vote Spoiling at Polish Local Elections of 2014: Establishing a Causal Link. East European Politics and Societies, 34(3), 611–636. [Google Scholar]
  45. Selb, P. (2008). Supersized votes: Ballot length, uncertainty, and choice in direct legislation elections. Public Choice, 135(3–4), 319–336. [Google Scholar]
  46. Shugart, M., Valdini, M., & Suominen, K. (2005). Looking for Locals: Voter Information Demands and Personal Vote-Earning Attributes of Legislators Under Proportional Representation. American Journal of Political Science, 49(2), 437–449. [Google Scholar]
  47. Southwell, P., & Burchett, J. (2000). Does Changing the Rules Change the Players? The Effect of All-Mail Elections on the Composition of the Electorate. Social Science Quarterly, 81(3), 837–845. [Google Scholar]
  48. Taebel, D. (1975). The Effect of Ballot Position on Electoral Success. American Journal of Political Science, 19(3), 519–536. [Google Scholar]
  49. Van Erkel, P., & Thijssen, P. (2016). The First One Wins: Distilling the Primacy Effect. Electoral Studies, 44, 245–254. [Google Scholar]
  50. Verba, S., Schlozman, K., & Brady, H. (1995). Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. [Google Scholar]
  51. Wand, J., Shotts, K., Sekhon, J., Mebane, W., Herron, M., & Brady, H. (2001). The Butterfl y Did It: The Aberrant Vote for Buchanan in Palm Beach County, Florida. American Political Science Review, 95(4), 793–810. [Google Scholar]
  52. Webber, R., Rallings, C., Borisyuk, G., & Thrasher, M. (2014). Ballot Order Positional Effects in British Local Elections, 1973–2011. Parliamentary Affairs, 67(1), 119–136. [Google Scholar]

Full metadata record

Cite this record

APA style

Linder, Steven (2021). Primacy Effects and Voting Methods (Literature Review). (2021). Primacy Effects and Voting Methods (Literature Review). Decyzje, (35), 27-38. https://doi.org/10.7206/DEC.1733-0092.151

MLA style

Linder, Steven. “Primacy Effects And Voting Methods (Literature Review)”. Decyzje, no. 35, 2021, pp. 27-38.

Chicago style

Linder, Steven. “Primacy Effects And Voting Methods (Literature Review)”. Decyzje, Decyzje, no. 35 (2021): 27-38. doi:10.7206/DEC.1733-0092.151.