Ranked Choice Voting and Civility

County Yard Signs 

In 2013, FairVote received a generous grant from the Democracy Fund to conduct a comprehensive two-year study of the impact of ranked choice voting (RCV) on campaign cooperation and civility in local elections in the U.S.

Working with the Eagleton Poll at Rutgers University and a core team of four academics led by Professor Caroline Tolbert of the University of Iowa, FairVote has analyzed the views and experiences of local voters in large independent public opinion surveys, explored the tone of newspaper coverage and candidates' social media activity, and engaged in statistical analyses of voter turnout, rankings and ballot spoilage.

So far, research emerging from the project shows:

  • Likely voters in cities that used RCV in their local elections in 2013 and 2014 were more satisfied with the conduct of candidate campaigns, and perceived less candidate criticism and negative campaigning in the lead up to their local elections.
  • Ranked choice voting was supported by a majority of voters with an opinion. In both 2013 and 2014, a majority of voters in RCV cities supported the use of RCV in local elections. In the 2014 survey of California cities, a majority of voters with an opinion in cities that use plurality voting supported the adoption of RCV in their local elections. 
  • In 2013, newspaper coverage of the local elections in RCV cities was significantly more positive (and less negative) than in the non-RCV cities. 

Read the 2015 report on RCV in cities here.

Read the 2014 Eagleton Poll RCV Survey Results here.


For more information and downloadable reports visit the pages below. 

RCV vs Other Voting Systems – By the Numbers

// April 15, 2015

ballot image1With over 100 elections conducted using RCV in the U.S. since 2000, there is much data RCV and its relationship to voter turnout, ballot spoilage, voter behavior and strategy and numerous other aspects of RCV elections. 

To explore these data, visit our "RCV Statistics" page. 

How does RCV Change the Tone of Campaigns?

// April 15, 2015

Debate TonightDoes RCV change the way media report on elections or the way candidates reach out to voters, talk to each another and use negative ads? Initial findings suggest RCV is accompanied by more positive campaign reporting in newspaper media and a different style of candidate communication on social media. 

Visit our "RCV and Campaign Tone" page to find out more. 

Ranked Choice Voting Research Advisory Committee

// April 15, 2015

SF Ballot RCV ExtractFairVote has assembled a team of academic advisers with whom we work closely on issues relating to ranked choice voting. They are currently taking the lead in implementing a research project into the potential impact of RCV on the tone and substance of campaigns for which we received $300,000 from the Democracy Fund. 


Voter Error in Top Two Primary Can Be Far Higher than in RCV Races

Eli Hanson-Metayer, Rob Richie // August 12, 2014

You might think that nothing could be easier than voting for one candidate in an election, but analysis of voter error in California’s Top Two primary system shows surprisingly high rates of invalidated ballots in such vote-for-one elections; much higher than the normal error rate in elections conducted by ranked choice voting.

Ranked Choice Voting in the Bay Area

Grace Ramsey, Rob Richie // October 16, 2014
oakland skyline bw by geolio d1ubw8s

Ranked choice voting (RCV) ballots are already being cast by some early and absentee voters in the four Bay Area cities holding RCV elections this November. Oakland, Berkeley, San Leandro, and San Francisco will all be holding RCV elections on November 4th. In light of the upcoming elections, we wanted to share a few facts about ranked choice voting.