AUSTIN (KXAN) — Seventy-eight Austinites running for city council found out Wednesday where their names will be on the upcoming November ballot. University of Texas researchers said depending on where someone falls on the ballot, it could impact the number of votes they get. Experts say if a voter doesn’t do their homework ahead of time to decide who to vote for, name order is imperative — especially if there’s a lot to choose from.
UT researchers say people tend to pick the first name listed in districts that have a lot of names on the ballot, unless they know who to vote for. Research has shown that candidates listed first can receive 3 percent more votes than their opponents. Psychologists find it’s human nature to give more consideration to the first item on a list.
The last name on the ballot can also receive more votes than those in the middle because the last name becomes most memorable since it’s the last one voters look at. Experts say the best advice for candidates is to get their name out there so voters have that visual recognition, even if they can’t remember everything a candidate stands for.
“In the end, the person who wins, who did the best job of getting out the vote, getting their voters to the polls — and that is the most important factor,” said Sherri Greenberg, with the Center for Politics & Governance at the University of Texas.
Researchers find that a candidate’s race and gender also make a difference. People may not even realize they are voting for a person that mirrors their gender or race. If people aren’t educated about who to vote for, they might try to make their own conclusions based on people’s names.
“If you know that a female is on the ballot, you can figure out from the name … you might say, ‘Hey, that female may be liberal’ because women tend to be more liberal,” said Nadine Gibson, a third-year graduate student at the UT Department of Government. “That person may or may not be closer to your own ideology.”