Candidate Names, Ballot Order, and Voters

I see that a federal panel sided with Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin, and denied a move by the Justice Department which would have required transliteration of candidate names on the ballot. (Reader note: Thad Hall blogged about this a few weeks ago.)

Too bad: I was hoping to see whether voters preferred “Uncooked rice” (Romney) to “Virtue soup” (Thompson). Do these transliterations say something about the campaign? Inquiring minds want to know!

I contributed in an indirect way to this decision. I was asked whether there was any academic research on the impact of candidate names on vote choice. I knew about work done by Jon Krosnick on ballot order (finding: it does help to be first), but I was less familiar with the work on candidate names.

It turns out that there is a fairly active sub-sub-sub research field on the question. It focuses mainly on non-partisan judicial elections and some state and local contests. The long and short of it is that candidate name does matter, at least if voters can use the name to infer gender, ethnicity, and some other demographic characteristics.

As to sticky rice vs. virtue soup, that’s one natural experiment that we sadly won’t be able to study.