Polarized Primaries and Polarized Legislators: Examining the Influence of Primary Elections on Polarization in the U.S. House

36 Pages Posted: 9 May 2013

See all articles by Lindsay Nielson

Lindsay Nielson

Bucknell University

Neil Visalvanich

Durham University - School of Government and International Affairs

Date Written: May 8, 2013

Abstract

In this article we develop and test an electoral connection theory of congressional polarization. We theorize that ideologically extreme primary voters are one of the driving forces behind electoral polarization, and polarization among primary voters is reflected in the polarization of party nominees for the House of Representatives. We use district-level data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study and ideal point estimates for congressional primary election candidates to examine the role of primary electorate ideology in the selection of party nominees. We find that primary voters are more extreme than general election voters, and candidates who run in primary elections with more polarized electorates are likewise more polarized. We also find a significant interaction between extreme primary electorates selecting extreme primary candidates. Finally, we find that Republican and Democratic candidates respond to different electoral constituencies.

Keywords: Congressional Elections, Primaries, Polarization

Suggested Citation

Nielson, Lindsay and Visalvanich, Neil, Polarized Primaries and Polarized Legislators: Examining the Influence of Primary Elections on Polarization in the U.S. House (May 8, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2262502 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2262502

Lindsay Nielson

Bucknell University ( email )

701 Moore Ave.
Lewisburg, PA 17837
United States
5705773513 (Phone)

Neil Visalvanich (Contact Author)

Durham University - School of Government and International Affairs ( email )

Durham, DH1 3HP
United Kingdom

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