Common Cause/NY + Rank the Vote Release Exit Poll on Ranked Choice Voting in Queens

Poll shows voters find RCV easy to understand, knew about the new voting method before heading to the ballot box, and ranked their ballot

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NEW YORK, NY (03/12/2021) (readMedia)-- Today, Common Cause/NY and Rank the Vote NYC released an exit polling memo from the two Queens special elections in Council Districts 24 and 31. The polls were conducted by Edison Research, with a sample size of 635 in-person and absentee voters from a broad spectrum of ages, races, and education levels that reflect the demographics of the two districts. The poll reveals voters found the ballot simple to use, knew about ranked choice voting, and ranked their ballot.

Highlights include:

  • 95.2% of voters stated they found the Ranked Choice Voting ballot simple to fill out
    • 80.2% found the ballot very simple to complete
    • 1.3% found the ballot very difficult to complete
  • Education efforts about Ranked Choice Voting done by Rank the Vote, candidates, the NYC Government and others are working
    • 74.7% of voters stated they were familiar with RCV prior to voting.
    • 13.2% of voters stated they were very unfamiliar with Ranked Choice Voting prior to voting.
  • A majority of voters took advantage of the new voting system, ranking more than one candidate
    • 61% of voters utilized the rankings on their ballot
    • 39% of voters only voted for one candidate
    • 31% ranked 5 candidates
    • 15% ranked 2 candidates
    • 8% ranked 3 candidates & 6% ranked 4 candidates
  • The majority of voters who did not rank did so because they only had one preferred candidate.
    • 78.7% of voters did not rank because they only had one preferred candidate.
    • 19.9% reported they did not rank because they didn't know enough about other candidates.
    • 3.4% did not rank because they didn't know they could rank.

Tables attached.

"The results are in: New Yorkers get RCV. Voters found the Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) ballot simple to complete, easy to understand, and knew about the new voting method before heading to the polls. Our education and outreach efforts are working, and together with our outstanding community partners, we'll continue to make sure all voters are fully empowered in June," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.

The Board of Elections (BOE) will start counting ballots next Tuesday March 16 in Council District 31, after all absentee ballots are counted. Last month, a candidate won with over 50% of the vote in the first round in Council District 24.

Edison Research surveyed 635 in-person and absentee voters during the Queens special elections on February 2nd and February 23rd. Voters were polled as they were leaving early voting and election day poll sites or, for absentee voters who did not drop off their ballot at a poll site, via phone and email after the election. All data was self-reported and the survey was available in English and Spanish. The exit poll over samples voters in Council District 31 which is 63.4% of the sample and voters from Council District 24 represent 36.5% of the sample.

RCV allows voters the opportunity to either rank five candidates in order of preference or vote for just one like they always have. If no one wins with a majority (more than 50 percent), the candidate that came in last is eliminated and voters' second choice votes get counted and so on until there's a majority winner. RCV will apply to primaries and special elections for all local offices including City Council, Borough President, Comptroller, Public Advocate and Mayor. Voters overwhelmingly passed RCV in the fall of 2019, with 74% of the vote.


A 2018 Common Cause/NY study found that 64 percent of multi-candidate primaries in New York City were won with less than 50 percent of the vote, and not a single race with 4 or more candidates produced a majority winner. Candidates elected through Ranked Choice Voting will always win with a majority of the vote.

The Democracy Fund surveyed voters from ten cities, three where Ranked Choice Voting is in use and seven where it is not. The two year study found that voters in places with Ranked Choice Voting were happier with campaign conduct and experienced less negative campaigning than voters in places that do not use Ranked Choice Voting. A second comparative survey of voters in California in cities that do and do not use Ranked Choice Voting found that a majority supported adopting Ranked Choice Voting to improve election conduct. Other surveys conducted in California found major gains for people of color, increasing representation in majority-minority districts by 17 percent, multi-ethnic districts by 24 percent, and whitemajority districts by 9 percent. Ranked Choice Voting prevents the "spoiler effect," and encourages coalition building.

The 2019 campaign to bring Ranked Choice Voting to NYC was endorsed by: former Mayor David Dinkins (RIP), Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, Congressman Jerry Nadler, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, New York Attorney General Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer, State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, State Senator Brad Hoylman, State Senator Robert Jackson, State Senator Brian Kavanagh, State Senator Liz Krueger, State Senator Zellnor Myrie, State Senator Jessica Ramos, State Senator Gustavo Rivera, State Senator Julia Salazar, State Senator James Sanders, Jr., State Senator Luis SepĂșlveda, Assembly Member Harvey Epstein, Assembly Member Catalina Cruz, Assembly Member Harvey Epstein, Assembly Member Ron Kim, Assembly Member Walter Mosley, Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou, Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, Assembly Member David Weprin, Former NYC Mayor David Dinkins, Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, Council Member Costa Constantinides, Council Member Robert Cornegy, Jr., Council Member Rafael Espinal, Council Member Ben Kallos, Council Member Brad Lander, Council Member Stephen Levin, Council Member Mark Levine, Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Council Member Keith Powers, Council Member Antonio Reynoso, Council Member Carlina Rivera, Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Council Member Paul Vallone, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Zephyr Teachout, Cynthia Nixon, Bishop Orlando Findlayter, and Reverend Dr. Ray Blanchette.