Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Ranked Choice Voting and Youth Voter Turnout: The Roles of Campaign Civility and Candidate Contact

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Abstract:  Ranked choice voting (RCV) has become increasing popular in the United States as more cities and states begin allowing voters to rank candidates in order of preference. This change in election system has been linked to increased campaign civility and mobilization, but with little evidence suggesting these benefits lead to increased voter turnout in the general population. This study argues that RCV elections may not increase overall voting but will increase youth voting. Considering young Americans, who have become increasingly pessimistic towards politics and are also heavily reliant on mobilization for participation, this study argues that increased campaign civility and mobilization may work to offset the negative feelings and lack of political engagement that plague young Americans. Using a matched study of individual level voter turnout for seven RCV and fourteen non-RCV local elections from 2013 and 2014, we find that there is no statistical difference in voting rates between RCV and plurality cities for the general public. Yet, in line with our hypotheses, younger voters are more likely to vote in RCV cities. Further, we find that increased contact in RCV elections accounts for a larger portion of the increased voter turnout compared to perceptions of campaign civility. Findings suggest RCV acts as a positive mobilizing force for youth voting through increasing campaign contact.

Keywords:  campaign civility; mobilization; ranked choice voting; voter turnout; youth voting


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© Courtney L. Juelich, Joseph A. Coll. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.