The Large Effects of a Small Win: How Past Rankings Shape the Behavior of Voters and Candidates
154 Pages Posted: 31 Dec 2019 Last revised: 22 Apr 2022
Date Written: December 2019
This paper investigates how past candidate rankings shape the behavior of voters and candidates. Using a regression discontinuity design in French two-round elections, we show that candidates who place first by only a small margin in the first round are more likely to stay in the race and win than those placed second. These effects are even larger for ranking second instead of third, and also present for third instead of fourth. Rankings’ effects are largest when candidates have the same political orientation (making coordination more important), but remain strong when only two candidates qualify for the second round (and coordination is not needed). The effects stem from allied parties agreeing on which candidate should drop out, voters coordinating their choice, and the “bandwagon effect” of wanting to vote for the winner. We find similar results in two-round elections across 19 other countries.
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