Electoral Context and Voter Confidence: How The Context of an Election Shapes Voter Confidence in the Process

Working Paper No.: 
79
Date Published: 
06/01/2009
Author(s): 
Morgan H. Llewellyn
Caltech
Thad E. Hall

Abstract

A number of recent studies examine how confident voters are that their ballots are counted as intended in U.S. federal elections from 2000 to 2004. One consistent finding of these studies is that, relative to Democrats, Republican voters tend to be more confident that their ballots are counted correctly. However, it is also the case that, in terms of the outcomes of the 2000 and 2004 elections at the national level, Republicans were victorious. Research also suggests that, in the 2004 election, voters who cast a paper ballot are more confident relative to those who vote using an electronic device. Although these results fit nicely into the 2000 and 2004 elections, we argue that future research of voter confidence should interpret voter confidence within the context of the election. The particular context of the 2006 election, gives rise to two testable hypotheses. First, we hypothesize a winner’s effect exists where following the election voters who cast their ballot for the winning candidate are more confident that their vote was counted accurately. The second hypothesize we test is that voter access to a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) device leads to higher rates of confidence among electronic voters. Using a panel dataset containing self-reported confidence levels before and after the 2006 election, we find empirical evidence that voter confidence is influenced by the context of the election. First, we find a positive and significant winner's effect; following the 2006 election voter confidence is higher for individuals who voted for the winning candidate. Second, we find that voters who cast ballots on an electronic voting machine with a VVPAT device exhibit higher rates of confidence when compared to electronic voters who do not have access to VVPAT devices. Finally, when measuring the change in confidence rates before and after the election, we find no significant difference in the change in the confidence rates between electronic voters with access to a VVPAT device and voters who cast a paper ballot.

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