Kingmakers or Cheerleaders? Party Power and the Causal Effects of Endorsements

42 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2013

See all articles by Thad Kousser

Thad Kousser

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

Scott Lucas

University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

Seth E. Masket

University of Denver

Eric McGhee

Public Policy Institute of California

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

When parties make endorsements in primary elections, does the favored candidate receive a real boost in her vote share, or do parties simply pick the favorites who are already destined to win? That is, do parties act as kingmakers who swing elections or cheerleaders who merely root on the winning side? To answer this question, we draw on two research designs aimed at isolating the causal effect of Democratic Party endorsements in California’s 2012 primary election. First, we conduct a survey experiment in which we randomly assign a party endorsement, holding all other aspects of a candidate’s background and policy positions constant. Second, we use a unique dataset to implement a regression-discontinuity analysis of electoral trends by comparing the vote shares captured by candidates who barely won or barely lost the internal party endorsement contest. We find that endorsements do indeed matter, though the magnitude of their impact is smaller than might be estimated from research designs less attuned to recent advances in causal inference.

Keywords: endorsements, parties, California, primaries

Suggested Citation

Kousser, Thad and Lucas, Scott and Masket, Seth E. and McGhee, Eric, Kingmakers or Cheerleaders? Party Power and the Causal Effects of Endorsements (2012). EPSA 2013 Annual General Conference Paper 149. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2224677

Thad Kousser

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

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

Scott Lucas

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Mail Code 0502
La Jolla, CA 92093-0112
United States

Seth E. Masket (Contact Author)

University of Denver ( email )

Sturm Hall, Room 466
2000 E. Asbury Ave.
Denver, CO 80208
United States
303-871-2718 (Phone)
303-871-2045 (Fax)

Eric McGhee

Public Policy Institute of California ( email )

500 Washington Street
Suite 800
San Francisco, CA 94111
United States
415-291-4439 (Phone)

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