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Why primaries? The party's tradeoff between policy and valence

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  • Gilles Serra

    ()
    (Nuffield College at the University of Oxford, UK)

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    Abstract

    Our theory studies why and when political parties choose to hold competitive primary elections. Party leaders can decide the nomination by granting resources and endorsements to a chosen candidate. Alternatively, they can delegate the candidate selection to the party's rank and file by holding a primary election among multiple candidates. The benefit of a primary is to increase the expected valence of the nominee. Its cost is the ideology that primary voters might induce on the party's policy platform. We find that primary elections are more likely to be used when the potential primary voters are not too moderate and not too extremist. We also find that opposition parties and weak parties benefit from primaries more than incumbent parties and strong parties do. Intriguingly, extremist parties are more likely to adopt primaries than centrist parties are. Contradicting previous research, we find that primaries are more attractive when candidates' skills are less salient for voters than candidates' policies.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by in its journal Journal of Theoretical Politics.

    Volume (Year): 23 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 1 (January)
    Pages: 21-51

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    Handle: RePEc:sae:jothpo:v:23:y:2011:i:1:p:21-51

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    Related research

    Keywords: Candidate selection; incumbency; political campaigns; primary elections; valence;

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    Cited by:
    1. James Adams & Samuel Merrill, 2013. "Policy-seeking candidates who value the valence attributes of the winner," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 155(1), pages 139-161, April.
    2. Thomas Braendle, 2013. "Do Institutions Affect Citizens' Selection into Politics?," Working papers 2013/04, Faculty of Business and Economics - University of Basel.
    3. Evrenk, Haldun & Lambie-Hanson, Timothy & Xu, Yourong, 2013. "Party-bosses vs. party-primaries: Quality of legislature under different selectorates," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 168-182.
    4. Michael Peress, 2013. "Candidate positioning and responsiveness to constituent opinion in the U.S. House of Representatives," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 156(1), pages 77-94, July.
    5. James Adams & Samuel Merrill, 2014. "Candidates’ policy strategies in primary elections: does strategic voting by the primary electorate matter?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 160(1), pages 7-24, July.
    6. Fernando Aragón, 2014. "Why do parties use primaries?: Political selection versus candidate incentives," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 160(1), pages 205-225, July.

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