Strategic Party Heterogeneity

46 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2012

See all articles by Geogia Kernell

Geogia Kernell

Northwestern University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: February 5, 2012


Most spatial voting models assume or imply that homogeneous candidate teams offer parties the best prospect for winning elections. Yet, we know that candidates from the same political party often adopt different policy positions. This article reconciles theory and reality by identifying a strategic rationale for political parties to recruit a diverse pool of candidates. I develop a spatial model in which two parties each select a distribution of candidates to compete in an upcoming election. The model demonstrates that parties positioned close to the median voter should field a more homogeneous set of candidates than parties with platforms that are more distant. I test this prediction with data on the policy positions of Democratic and Republican candidates for congressional and state legislative elections since 1990. In line with the model's predictions, I find that minority parties- presumably more distant from the median voter- are more heterogeneous than majority parties.

Keywords: heterogeneity, elections, spatial voting model, voting models, American politics

Suggested Citation

Kernell, Geogia, Strategic Party Heterogeneity (February 5, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Geogia Kernell (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Department of Political Science ( email )

601 University Place (Scott Hall)
Evanston, IL 60201
United States


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