What’s in a name? Gauging the effect of labels on third party vote shares

M. V. Hood, Seth C. McKee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper we examine an understudied question: Does the inclusion of a party label boost the vote shares of third party candidates? For years, third parties in Tennessee have contended that the high barrier to appear on the ballot with a label is a decided disadvantage for their candidates. Our empirical analysis, however, tells a different story. Various federal court decisions have allowed third party candidates in Tennessee to appear on the ballot with their respective party label in the 2000, 2012, and 2014 election cycles. This fact creates a ready-made natural experiment whereby the electoral fortunes of third party candidates with a label can be compared to those running without a label. Using data from 1992 through 2016 we test whether the inclusion of a label for third party candidates enhances their vote share. The results of our analysis make it clear that in a dominant two-party system it makes no difference, in terms of electoral viability, whether or not a third party candidate appears on the ballot with a party label.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)542-555
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022


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