Primary Electorates vs. Party Elites: Who are the Polarizers?
14 Pages Posted: 9 May 2013
Date Written: May 8, 2013
Advocates of direct primaries argued that party nominees selected by voters should be more independent-minded than those hand-selected by party elites. We test this claim through a study of state legislative vacancy appointments, through which a small group of party activists is responsible for replacing legislators who have died or resigned. We compare the roll call voting behavior of two decades of legislators in Colorado and Illinois based on whether the legislators were directly nominated in primary elections or selected by party elites on a partisan vacancy committee. Results demonstrate that there is, in fact, little ideological difference between the two types of incumbents, suggesting that party elites are largely able to secure the nominations of their preferred candidates even under conditions of a direct primary.
Keywords: state legislatures, primaries, polarization, ideology, party
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