Is There a Secret Ballot? Ballot Secrecy Perceptions and their Implications for Voting Behavior
47 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 15 Oct 2009
Date Written: 2009
A secret ballot is implemented to free voters to choose candidates without fear of economic or social repercussions, but the extent to which the secrecy achieves this goal depends on whether people believe their choices are kept secret, rather than whether they actually are. Findings from a nationally representative sample show that large proportions of the U.S. population have doubts about the secrecy of the ballot. Approximately 25% of all respondents and approximately half of non-White and less educated respondents do not believe their ballot choices are kept secret. Even larger proportions (almost 70%) report regularly, voluntarily sharing their vote choices with others. In sum, we find that few people view their vote choices as truly secret. We also show that beliefs about ballot secrecy help predict which candidate a citizen votes for and whether a voter turns out. Our results suggest that, despite the formal secrecy of the ballot, citizens' vote choices should be analyzed as something other than purely private acts.
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