In school, we were taught to always pick C in a multiple choice question if unsure. Would being on a particular placement on a ballot bring any statistical advantage?

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    What kind of school did you go to? I would imagine that only the first choice has a small advantage and maybe the last one a disadvantage. Mar 19, 2019 at 7:48
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    There have been studies showing A has an advantage when none of the candidates are widely known. Will try and dig them out if no one beats me to it
    – JeffUK
    Mar 19, 2019 at 11:10
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    Sounds like your school has taught you wrong lol... Mar 19, 2019 at 14:10
  • @MatthewLiu At a guess statically by choosing C in testing is more likely to get a correct answer than leaving it blank.
    – Muze
    Aug 15, 2019 at 15:04
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    why would you always pick C? Aug 15, 2019 at 20:58

1 Answer 1


It's beneficial to be the first name on the ballot. I'm aware of a few articles in this vein, but start with Koppell and Steen (2002) in the Journal of Politics (cit).


The underlying explanatory theory relies on a limited rational-choice concept called "satisficing". A rational voter would equally consider every possible voting choice and exhaustively understand each option. Then, they would make the choice that optimizes what they want and minimizes their costs. Satisficing instead says that voters don't have the resources (mental or material) to do all this research and calculation. Instead, they need some kind of shorthand for knowing which candidates are important to think about.

This theory says that people actually dedicate the most mental resources to the first name on the list, giving them an advantage. There is an on-going conversation about how strong this effect is and when it happens. It seems to be stronger in non-partition elections (because voters can't use party identification to decide which candidates to think about), but the actual effect size is still up in the air.


Well designed academic assessments don't have the effect you are describing. Answers are often rotated so that the order of responses is different between forms. Questions and responses should be analyzed after each round of testing to make sure that each item is useful to the teacher or assessor. What I'm saying is, don't rely on C.

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