One of the world’s leading political scientists believes that DONALD TRUMP won the US presidential election for a very simple reason writes Hannah Sander “his name came first on the ballot in some critical swing states.As reported by BBC Jon Krosnick has spent 30 years studying how voters choose candidate rather than another, and says that AT LEAST TWO United States presidents won because their names were listed first on the ballot.
At first sight Krosnick’s idea might seem to make a sense.
Are voters really so easily swayed? James Tilley, professor of politics at the University of Oxford says most of them are not. If you voted Republican or Democrat you were always going to be either.
Says Krosnick, a politics professor at Stanford University: a minority are. A human tendency to lean towards the first name listed on the ballot increases on average of about 3 percentage points for candidates.
If you are feeling uniformed and yet feel obligated to cast a vote or if you are feeling deeply conflicted, say between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump you are more likely to be affected, Krosnick says.
In the states where Trump won very narrowly, his name was also listed first on the ballot says Krosnick
In 2002, a court overturned the result of the mayoral election in the California city of Compton, after hearing testimony about the name-order effect. The judge decided that in this instance, the decision to list one of the candidates first had been deliberate and unfair.
Krosnick explained during the Compton court case that candidates whose last names begin with letters picked near the end of the lottery have it tough. They will never get the advantage that comes from b listed first on the ballot.
There are numerous cases where the primacy effect is thought to have influenced the result of an vote.
In January 2008, Hillary Clinton unexpectedly beat Barack Obama in the New Hampshire primacy -part of the long battle to decide which of them would become the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate. Professor Michael Traugott from the University of Michigan believes that name order enabled Clinton to pick up extra votes.
The exit poll from the 2004 US presidential election led pundits on the night to believe that Democratic Party candidate John Kerry would win, when in fact he went on to lose to incumbent president George W Bush.
What can be done to prevent the primacy effect?
One option is to randomise the ballot papers. The state of California and Ohio have both adopted this system.
Because of the fact that different states in the US order candidate name differently and idiosyncratically and almost none of the states do what California and Ohio do which is to rotate candidate name order across ballots to be fair, we have unfortunately had at least two recent election outcomes that are the result of bias in the name ordering,” says Krosnick.
If all of those states had rotated name order fairly, most likely George W Bush would not have been elected president in 2000, nor would Donald Trump have been elected president 2016.
You can also share your views.