Primary Election Systems and Representation

Posted: 10 Sep 1998

See all articles by Elisabeth R. Gerber

Elisabeth R. Gerber

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science

Rebecca B. Morton

University of Iowa - Department of Political Science

Abstract

We examine how differences in the institutions that regulate candidate nomination procedures--specifically direct primary election laws--affect the types of candidates elected in non-Presidential American elections. We hypothesize that in more closed primary systems, control over candidate nominations by ideological extremists will translate into a higher likelihood that extreme candidates win in the general election. We hypothesize that in more open systems, participation by a wider spectrum of the electorate means that candidates must appeal to more moderate voters, leading to the election of more moderate candidates. Using pooled cross-section time-series regression analysis, we find that US Representatives from states with closed primaries take policy positions that are furthest from their districts' estimated median voter's ideal positions. Representatives from states with semi-closed primaries are the most moderate. We conclude that the costs of strategic behavior created by electoral institutions have important consequences for electoral outcomes.

JEL Classification: D72

Suggested Citation

Gerber, Elisabeth R. and Morton, Rebecca B., Primary Election Systems and Representation. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=125708

Elisabeth R. Gerber (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy ( email )

412 Lorch Hall
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States
734-647-4004 (Phone)
734-763-9181 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.fordschool.umich.edu/people/Faculty/gerber-e.htm

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

Rebecca B. Morton

University of Iowa - Department of Political Science ( email )

Iowa City, IA 52242
United States
319-335-2358 (Phone)
319-335-3400 (Fax)

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