Does Ranked-Choice Voting Reduce Racial Polarization? A Clustering Approach to Ranked Ballot Data
38 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2021
Date Written: March 9, 2021
Political scientists have long examined if ranked-choice voting (RCV) yields moderation in racial and ethnic conflict in the electoral arena. We advance the literature by introducing novel empirical and theoretical perspectives to analyze individual ranked ballots in RCV to answer this long-debated question. By applying cluster analysis and ecological inference to more than 5.5 million ranked preferences and 13,635 precinct-level data from Bay Area mayoral elections from 1990 to 2020, we quantify the degree of racially polarized voting in a manner that is comparable across electoral systems. We show that switching from first-past-the-post to RCV election does not seem to reduce the level of racially polarized voting for the overall electorate and for all pairs of racial and ethnic groups examined. We also examine the impact of strategic ballot concentration known as plumping on the analysis of rank ballot data, shedding new light on the research of RCV and political behavior.
Keywords: ranked-choice voting, racially polarized voting, election reform, rank data, clustering
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