Ranking Use by Demographic

High Use of Rankings Across All Groups in the 2 Citywide Contests

The plots below show the average number of rankings used in each precinct, plotted against the portion of voters of each of five racial or ethnic groups in those precincts. 

Upward-sloping lines indicate that when that racial group makes up a larger share of the population in a precinct, the average number of rankings used on ballots in that precinct also increases, suggesting members of that racial group ranked more candidates.

The two citywide contests for mayor and comptroller show different ranking behavior by demographic: 

 

In the mayoral election, voters in heavily-White precincts tended to return more ballots with a high number of rankings, but the exact opposite pattern occurs in the comptroller election, the only other citywide election, where the most strongly positive relationship to highly-ranked ballots is precincts with large Black populations. 

Given these divergent results, we conclude that ranking behavior is more dependent on the candidates and their campaigns rather than on a voter’s race or ethnicity. For example, previous FairVote work found that candidates who are perceived as front-runners and candidates who engage in anti-RCV rhetoric are likely to attract more “bullet votes”, or votes which select only that candidate and rank no others. 

In the mayoral election, Eric Adams fits both of those criteria. Pre-election polling showed adams with a roughly ten-point lead and he made numerous public statements which were skeptical of RCV. Unsurprisingly, the many voters who chose Eric Adams as their first choice used the fewest average rankings among voters for the top five candidates. 

Candidate

Average Ranks from First-Choice Voters

Eric Adams

3.36

Kathryn Garcia

3.95

Maya Wiley

3.95

Andrew Yang

3.37

Scott Stringer

3.66

 

In the comptroller's race on the other hand, there was less perception of a clear front-runner. Leading up to the election, Lander was trailing his opponent Corey Johnson in the polls. Additionally, Lander and Johnson both made positive statements about RCV prior to the election. 

Given Adams’ strong support from Black voters in the mayoral race, the low ranking usage for Adams in particular may have contributed to the lower-than-average ranking usage for Black voters overall in that race, even while Black voters demonstrated the opposite ranking behavior in the comptroller’s election. 

 

 

Ranking Usage is Context-Dependent in 6 Borough President Contests

Below are the results for each of the Borough President races, five Democratic races and one Republican. 

The Bronx Democratic Primary

The borough president's race in the Bronx included 5 candidates and Hispanic or Latino voters have the strongest positive relationship with the number of rankings used, while White voters were less likely to use a high number of rankings. Three of the five candidates on the ballot were Hispanic or Latino.

AAPI voters in the Bronx also have a positive relationship, but there is more uncertainty given their smaller population in that borough, and the relationship falls short of statistical significance as determined by the p-value.

 

Brooklyn Democratic Primary

Brooklyn had the most competitive borough president race of the five boroughs, with 12 candidates competing. In Brooklyn, Black voters were particularly likely to use a high number of rankings on their ballots. A majority of candidates in Brooklyn were black. 

 

Manhattan Democratic Primary

In Manhattan, seven candidates competed to become borough president. Precincts with more Black voters cast more highly-ranked ballots, while precincts with larger AAPI populations tended to rank fewer candidates.

 

Staten Island Democratic Primary

Five candidates competed in the Democratic primary in Staten Island. Black voters, Hispanic or Latino voters, and voters of mixed race or another race tended to rank more candidates. 

 

Staten Island Republican Primary

Four candidates ran for the Republican nomination for Staten Island borough president, and precincts with more Black or Hispanic or Latino voters tended to cast more ballots with high use of rankings. 

 

Queens Democratic Primary

Queens had three candidates running for borough president, and precincts of all different racial / ethnic makeups appear to have engaged in similar ranking behavior. 

 

 

Conclusion

Our analysis finds that ranking usage is dependent on the context of the election much more than by a voter’s race or ethnicity. We find that RCV allows every racial or ethnic group in this study to fully utilize their ballot, with no particular group disadvantaged by the change to a ranked ballot in 2021. 

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