Since 2000, the number of American cities using single-winner RCV has dramatically increased. More than ten cities now use single-winner RCV including four cities in the Bay Area in California, Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, and Portland, Maine. FairVote and a team of researchers are eagerly investigating America's emergent experience with RCV.
The Rutgers-Eagleton Poll, with Professors Caroline J. Tolbert and Todd Donovan, conducted two rigorous independent opinion polls exploring voters' experiences in local campaigns and elections in 2013 and 2014. These polls show:
In a survey of more than 200 candidates for city office, Professor Todd Donovan found that candidates in cities using RCV were:
For more information, read Todd Donovan's conference paper: Donovan, Todd. Candidate Perceptions of Campaigns under Preferential and Plurality Voting. Presentation prepared for the Workshop on Electoral Systems, Electoral Reform, and Implications for Democratic Performance. Stanford University, March 14-15, 2014.
Professor Martha Kropf, at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has used content analysis techniques of newspaper articles and candidate tweets to show that newspaper coverage of local contests in RCV cities was significantly more positive (and less negative) than in cities using plurality during the 2013 election campaign. Kropf also shows that mayoral candidates in Minneapolis addressed other candidates on Twitter more often and more civilly than did mayoral candidates in non-RCV cities.
Sarah John reports on Prof. Kropf's work on the 2013 elections in Ranked Choice Voting in Practice: Content Analysis of Campaign Tone in Newspapers and Twitter Feeds in 2013 RCV Elections. See also: Kropf, Martha. "Impact of Ranked Choice Voting on Election Cooperation and Civility: Measuring Public Sentiment through a Content Analysis of Campaign-Related Communications." Presentation prepared for the Workshop on Electoral Systems, Electoral Reform, and Implications for Democratic Performance. Stanford University, March 14-15, 2014.
FairVote is currently exploring the impact of RCV on the representation of women and people of color at the local level. For more information about our projects, progress and plans see the Representation page.
In nations that use RCV for partisan elections, the impacts of RCV on independent and third party voters has been studied. For more see our International Experience page.
Voter turnout in cities that have adopted RCV is comparable to, and often higher than, turnout in other cities. In elections using RCV in the Bay Area in 2014, voter turnout decline was less than in other parts of the state and voter turnout was generally higher than past non-RCV elections.
Professor David Kimball, at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, has studied voter turnout under RCV. His study finds that RCV in American local elections has a limited impact on turnout, with more important influences on turnout including a competitive mayoral election, other races on the ballot (including initiatives) and the use of even year elections. However, Professor Kimball's study shows that, when compared to the primary and runoff elections they replace, RCV general elections are associated with a 10 point increase in voter turnout.
For more research into RCV and voter turnout and understanding, visit the Voter Turnout and Understanding page.
Some of the key advantages of RCV include its tendency to limit the spoiler effect, so long as voters rank candidates, and to elect the winner with the support of the majority of voters. In the "Voter Preferences, Spoilers and Majority Winners" section, we explore FairVote research on how voters express their preferences under RCV, the operation of the spoiler effect in practice, and the election of majority and Condorcet winners under RCV.