Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-v5vhk Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-14T01:37:45.717Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Is There a Secret Ballot? Ballot Secrecy Perceptions and Their Implications for Voting Behaviour

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 July 2012

Abstract

Do people believe the votes they cast are truly secret? Novel items added to a nationally representative survey show that 25 per cent of respondents report not believing their ballot choices are kept secret and over 70 per cent report sharing their vote choices with others. These findings suggest that standard models of candidate choice should account for the potential effects of doubts about ballot secrecy. Consistent with this view, regression analysis shows that social forces appear to have a greater effect on vote choices among people who doubt the formal secrecy of the ballot. This analysis supports the broader claim that the intended benefits of institutional rules may not be realized if people's perceptions of these rules differ from their formal characteristics.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Footnotes

*

Gerber and Huber at Department of Political Science and Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University; Doherty at Department of Political Science, Loyola University Chicago; Dowling at Department of Political Science, University of Mississippi (email: alan.gerber@yale.edu). This research was funded by Yale's Center for the Study of American Politics and Institution for Social and Policy Studies. Data and supporting materials necessary to reproduce the numerical results will be made available at http://huber.research.yale.edu/ upon publication. An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2009 meeting of the American Political Science Association. We thank Kevin Arceneaux, John Bullock, Rachel Vanessa Cobb, Jamie Druckman, Susan Hyde, Gabriel Lenz, Neil Malhotra, Marc Meredith, Eric Patashnik, Eric Schickler, the anonymous referees and the Editor for feedback on earlier versions. An appendix containing additional information is available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S000712341200021X.

References

1 Yakobson, Alexander, ‘Secret Ballot and Its Effects in the Late Roman Republic’, Hermes, 123 (1995), 426442 Google Scholar

2 Evans, Eldon Cobb, A History of the Australian Ballot System in the United States (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1917)Google Scholar

3 Franck, Thomas M., ‘The Emerging Right to Democratic Governance’, American Journal of International Law, 86 (1992), 4691 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

4 Benson, Lawrence E., ‘Studies in Secret-Ballot Technique’, Public Opinion Quarterly, 5 (1941), 7982 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Gerber, Alan S., ‘The Adoption of the Secret Ballot’ (doctoral dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1994)Google Scholar

Rusk, Jerrold G., ‘The Effect of the Australian Ballot Reform on Split Ticket Voting: 1876–1908’, American Political Science Review, 64 (1970), 12201238 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Bensel, Richard F., The American Ballot Box in the Mid-nineteenth Century (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

5 Carpini, Michael X. Delli and Keeter, Scott, What Americans Know about Politics and Why it Matters (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1996)Google Scholar

6 Alvarez, R. Michael, Hall, Thad E. and Llewellyn, Morgan H., ‘Are Americans Confident Their Ballots Are Counted?’ Journal of Politics, 70 (2008), 754766 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Atkeson, Lonna Rae and Saunders, Kyle L., ‘Voter Confidence: A Local Matter?’ PS: Political Science & Politics, 40 (2007), 655660 Google Scholar

III, Charles S. Bullock, III, M.V. Hood and Clark, Richard, ‘Punch Cards, Jim Crow, and Al Gore: Explaining Voter Trust in the Electoral System in Georgia, 2000’, State Politics and Policy Quarterly, 5 (2005), 283294 Google Scholar

Llewellyn, Morgan H., Hall, Thad E. and Alvarez, R. Michael, ‘Electoral Context and Voter Confidence: How the Context of an Election Shapes Voter Confidence in the Process’ (unpublished, Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, Working Paper No: 79, 2009)Google Scholar

7 Claassen, Ryan L., Magleby, David B., Monson, J. Quin and Patterson, Kelly D., ‘“At Your Service”: Voter Evaluations of Poll Worker Performance’, American Politics Research, 36 (2008), 612634 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

8 DePaulo, Bella M., Kashy, Deborah A., Kirkendol, Susan E., Wyer, Melissa M. and Epstein, Jennifer A., ‘Lying in Everyday Life’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70 (1996), 979995 CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

DePaulo, Bella M. and Kashy, Deborah A., ‘Everyday Lies in Close and Casual Relationships’, Interpersonal Relations and Group Processes, 74 (1998), 6379 Google ScholarPubMed

Rycyna, Caroline C., Champion, Crystal D. and Kelly, Anita E., ‘First Impressions after Various Types of Deception: Less Favorable Following Expectancy Violation’, Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 31 (2009), 4048 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Lane, Julie D. and Wegner, Daniel M., ‘The Cognitive Consequences of Secrecy’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69 (1995), 237253 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

9 Gilovich, Thomas, Medvec, Victoria Husted and Savitsky, Kenneth, ‘The Illusion of Transparency: Biased Assessments of Others’ Ability to Read One's Emotional States’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75 (1998), 332346 CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

10 Source: American National Election Studies (ANES) cumulative file (1992–2004).

11 Knight, Jack, Institutions and Social Conflict (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

North, Douglass, Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

12 Schaffer, Frederic C., Democracy in Translation: Understanding Politics in an Unfamiliar Culture (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998)Google Scholar

13 Christakis, Nicholas A. and Fowler, James H., Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives (Boston, Mass.: Little, Brown, 2009)Google Scholar

Diana C. Mutz, Hearing the Other Side: Deliberative versus Participatory Democracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006)Google Scholar

Huckfeldt, Robert and Sprague, John, ‘Networks in Context: The Social Flow of Political Information’, American Political Science Review, 81 (1987), 11971215 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

14 Asch, Solomon E., ‘Opinions and Social Pressure’, Scientific American, 193 (1955), 3135 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Berelson, Bernard R., Lazarsfeld, Paul F. and McPhee, William N., Voting: A Study of Opinion Formation in a Presidential Campaign (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1954)Google Scholar

Cialdini, Robert B. and Goldstein, Noah J., ‘Social Influence: Compliance and Conformity’, Annual Review of Psychology, 55 (2004), 591621 CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

Gerber, Alan S., Green, Donald P. and Larimer, Christopher W., ‘Social Pressure and Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment’, American Political Science Review, 102 (2008), 3348 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Santee, Richard T. and Maslach, Christina, ‘To Agree or Not to Agree: Personal Dissent amid Social Pressure to Conform’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 42 (1982), 690700 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

15 Milgram, Stanley, ‘Behavioral Study of Obedience’, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67 (1963), 371378 CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

16 Chong, Dennis, Rational Lives: Norms and Values in Politics and Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

McClosky, Herbert and Dahlgren, Harold E., ‘Primary Group Influence on Party Loyalty’, American Political Science Review, 53 (1959), 757776 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

17 Nichter, Simeon, ‘Vote Buying or Turnout Buying? Machine Politics and the Secret Ballot’, American Political Science Review, 102 (2008), 1931 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Stokes, Susan C., ‘Perverse Accountability: A Formal Model of Machine Politics with Evidence from Argentina’, American Political Science Review, 99 (2005), 315325 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

18 In their study of what factors affect people's evaluations of their polling place experiences, Claassen, Magleby, Monson and Patterson, ‘“At Your Service”’, find that perceptions that one's voting experience was private are associated with positive evaluations of poll workers.

19 Downs, Anthony, An Economic Theory of Democracy (New York: Harper & Row, 1957)Google Scholar

20 Riker, William H. and Ordeshook, Peter C., ‘A Theory of the Calculus of Voting’, American Political Science Review, 62 (1968), 2542 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Katosh, John P. and Traugott, Michael W., ‘Costs and Values in the Calculus of Voting’, American Journal of Political Science, 26 (1982), 361376 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Feddersen, Timothy J. and Pesendorfer, Wolfgang, ‘The Swing Voter's Curse’, American Economic Review, 86 (1996), 408424 Google Scholar

21 Mulligan, Casey B. and Hunter, Charles G., ‘The Empirical Frequency of a Pivotal Vote’, Public Choice, 116 (2003), 3154 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Blais, André, To Vote or Not To Vote? The Merits and Limits of Rational Choice Theory (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

22 Rusk, ‘The Effect of the Australian Ballot Reform on Split Ticket Voting’.

23 Riker and Ordeshook, ‘A Theory of the Calculus of Voting’, p. 27Google Scholar

24 Vavreck, Lynn and Rivers, Douglas, ‘The 2006 Cooperative Congressional Election Study’, Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, 18 (2008), 355366 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

25 In the CCES pre-election survey, we find that 56 per cent of respondents are ‘very much’ interested in politics and current events (variable = v245, ‘Level of interest in politics/current events’). In the ANES pre-election survey, the comparable figure is 52 per cent (variable = V0830001b, ‘How interested are you in information about what's going on in government and politics?’ = Extremely or Very interested). Among respondents who reported voting in 2008, 54 per cent of the two-party vote share went to Obama in our CCES data; in the ANES, the comparable proportion was 55 per cent. The demographic and political characteristics of the sample used in the analysis that follows are presented in online Appendix Table A1.

26 Fewer than 1 per cent of respondents failed to respond to any individual question. We restrict our analysis to the 804 participants who responded to each of the ballot secrecy items and who completed the post-election wave of the survey where the presidential vote choice question used in the analyses below was asked.

27 George H. Dunteman, Principal Components Analysis, Sage University Paper series on Quantitative Applications in the Social Sciences (Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage, 1989)Google Scholar

28 Milbrath, Lester W. and Goel, Madan Lal, Political Participation: How and Why Do People Get Involved in Politics (Chicago: Rand McNally College, 1977)Google Scholar

Verba, Sidney, Schlozman, Kay Lehman and Brady, Henry, Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

29 See online Appendix Table A3 for cross-tabulations of each secrecy item with education and other demographic groups.

30 See online Appendix Table A3.

31 In additional analysis (available upon request), we estimated OLS models predicting summary measures of each type of secrecy (measured based on principle component scores reported in online Appendix Table A2 and described in greater detail below) with a series of indicators for each of the race, gender, age, education, income and political interest categories presented in online Appendix Table A3. The models also include indicators for income missing, other race and state fixed effects. The only statistically significant (p < 0.05) relationships we find are a positive association between education and psychological secrecy, a positive association between the middle age category (40–60, significantly different from both other age categories) and social secrecy, and negative associations between both income and interest in politics and social secrecy.

32 Joo, Thomas, ‘Corporate Governance and the Constitutionality of Campaign Finance Reform’, Election Law Journal: Rules, Politics, and Policy, 1 (2002), 361372 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

David B. Magleby, Anthony Corrado and Kelly D. Patterson, eds, Financing the 2004 Elections (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2006)Google Scholar

David B. Magleby, ed., Financing the 2000 Elections (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2002)Google Scholar

Magleby, David B., Monson, J. Quin and Patterson, Kelly D., Dancing without Partners: How Candidates, Parties, and Interest Groups Interact in the Presidential Campaign (Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007)Google Scholar

Regnerus, Mark D., Sikkink, David and Smith, Christian, ‘Voting with the Christian Right: Contextual and Individual Patterns of Electoral Influence’, Social Forces, 77 (1999), 13751401 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

33 Finifter, Ada, ‘The Friendship Group as a Protective Environment for Political Deviants’, American Political Science Review, 68 (1974), 607625 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

34 Huckfeldt, Robert and Sprague, John, Citizens, Politics, and Social Communication (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Mutz, Diana C., ‘Cross-cutting Social Networks: Testing Democratic Theory in Practice’, American Political Science Review, 96 (2004), 111126 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Beck, Paul Allen and Jennings, M. Kent, ‘Family Traditions, Political Periods, and the Development of Partisan Orientations’, Journal of Politics, 53 (1991), 742763 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

35 Beck, Paul Allen, Dalton, Russell J., Greene, Steven and Huckfeldt, Robert, ‘The Social Calculus of Voting: Interpersonal, Media, and Organizational Influences on Presidential Choices’, American Political Science Review, 96 (2002), 5773 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Huckfeldt, Robert, Beck, Paul Allen, Dalton, Russell J. and Levine, Jeffrey, ‘Political Environments, Cohesive Social Groups, and the Communication of Public Opinion’, American Journal of Political Science, 39 (1995), 10251054 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

36 Additionally, ‘pure’ independents and partisan ‘leaners’ do not identify with a party in response to the stem of the standard party identification measure. Thus, unlike partisan identifiers, they are less likely to be concerned about social sanctions associated with deviating from a given party's candidate.

37 Minor party voters, of whom there are fewer than ten in our weighted sample, are also specified as the midpoint of the scale in our primary analysis.

38 We obtain highly similar results to those presented in Table 2 when additive scales of standardized (M = 0, SD = 1) items are used to measure each secrecy concept. The Cronbach's alphas are 0.496 and 0.763 for these psychological and social secrecy scale scales, respectively. These results are available upon request.

39 There is not a statistically significant effect for the interaction of social secrecy and union status.

40 The linear combination of the coefficient on psychological secrecy and the interaction between psychological secrecy and the union household indicator is: −0.113 (p < 0.05).

41 The interactions between psychological secrecy and the partisanship indicators fall short of conventional levels of statistical significance; p = 0.139.

42 To the extent that some respondents are only faced with situations where they would disclose their choices to like-minded individuals, these estimates understate the potential consequences of social secrecy.

43 Keith, Bruce E., Magleby, David B., Nelson, Candice J., Orr, Elizabeth, Westlye, Mark C. and Wolfinger, Raymond E., The Myth of the Independent Voter (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

44 James N. Druckman, Donald P. Green, James H. Kuklinski and Arthur Lupia, eds, Cambridge Handbook of Experimental Political Science (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011)Google Scholar

45 In addition, Column 5 does not include state indicators because ordered logit models are inconsistent with fixed effects given the sample sizes we have within states.

46 Gerber, Alan S., Huber, Gregoy A., Doherty, David, Dowling, Conor M. and Hill, Seth J., ‘Do Perceptions of Ballot Secrecy Influence Turnout? Results from a Field Experiment’ (unpublished, Department of Political Science, Yale University, 2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

47 Mutz, Diana C., ‘The Consequences of Cross-Cutting Networks for Political Participation’, American Journal of Political Science, 46 (2002), 838855 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

48 Citrin, Jack, ‘Comment: The Political Relevance of Trust in Government’, American Political Science Review, 68 (1974), 973988 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Hetherington, Marc J., ‘The Political Relevance of Political Trust’, American Political Science Review, 92 (1998), 791808 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

49 Note that the opposite pattern – low trust union members being more Republican – could not explain our finding if low trust leads to lack of confidence in secrecy protections.

50 Note too that this finding suggests it is not simply that non-trusting individuals are somehow different (ideologically) from their environments because we control for individuals’ social identities (partisanship and union membership) and those policy preferences (ideology).

51 Simon Jackman and Lynn Vavreck, Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project, 2007–2008 Panel Study: Common Content, [Computer File] Release 1: February 1, 2009, Los Angeles, CA: UCLA.

52 The CCAP was also conducted by Polimetrix and the sample was constructed to be representative of registered voters. Trust in Government item: ‘How much of the time do you think you can trust the government in Washington (D.C.) to do what is right? 1. Almost never; 2. Some of the time; 3. Most of the time; 4. Just about always.’ The political interest measure solicited respondents’ level of ‘interest in politics and current events’.

53 Hall, Thad E., Monson, J. Quin and Patterson, Kelly D., ‘The Human Dimension of Elections: How Poll Workers Shape Public Confidence in Elections’, Political Research Quarterly, 62 (2008), 507522 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

54 Christian R. Grose and Carrie A. Russell, ‘Avoiding the Vote: A Theory and Field Experiment of the Social Costs of Public Political Participation’ (paper presented at the Annual Meetings of the American Political Science Association, Boston, 2008).

55 In supplementary analysis (available upon request) we found few differences in secrecy perceptions between those who reported voting by mail or absentee and those who reported voting in person.

56 Bishop, George F. and Fisher, Bonnie S., ‘“Secret Ballots” and Self-Reports in an Exit-Poll Experiment’, Public Opinion Quarterly, 59 (1995), 568588 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

57 Alvarez, Hall and Llewellyn, ‘Are Americans Confident Their Ballots Are Counted?’

58 Hyde, Susan, ‘The Observer Effect in International Politics: Evidence from a Natural Experiment’, World Politics, 60 (2007), 3763 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

59 Karpowitz, Christopher F., Monson, J. Quin, Nielson, Lindsay, Patterson, Kelly D. and Snell, Steven A., ‘Political Norms and the Private Act of Voting’, Public Opinion Quarterly, 75 (2011), 659685 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Supplementary material: File

Gerber Supplementary Material

Appendix

Download Gerber Supplementary Material(File)
File 68.5 KB