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Why do parties use primaries?: Political selection versus candidate incentives


  • Fernando Aragón



This paper contrasts empirically two possible explanations for the party decision to use primaries: desire to improve political selection (selection effect), or desire to increase political competition—and incentives—among candidates (incentive effect). Using a simple model of endogenous primaries, I show that each explanation implies a different relation between primary adoption and the strength of partisan support. I estimate this relation using the case of Latin American presidential primaries and find robust evidence that the incentive effect dominates the selection effect. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Suggested Citation

  • Fernando Aragón, 2014. "Why do parties use primaries?: Political selection versus candidate incentives," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 160(1), pages 205-225, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:160:y:2014:i:1:p:205-225
    DOI: 10.1007/s11127-013-0076-8

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Elias Papaioannou & Gregorios Siourounis, 2008. "Democratisation and Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(532), pages 1520-1551, October.
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    6. Gilles Serra, 2011. "Why primaries? The party's tradeoff between policy and valence," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 23(1), pages 21-51, January.
    7. Barro, Robert J, 1996. "Democracy and Growth," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 1-27, March.
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    10. Timothy Besley & Torsten Persson & Daniel M. Sturm, 2010. "Political Competition, Policy and Growth: Theory and Evidence from the United States," CEP Discussion Papers dp1009, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
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    14. Rafael Hortala-Vallve & Hannes Mueller, 2015. "Primaries: the unifying force," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 163(3), pages 289-305, June.
    15. Masayuki Kudamatsu, 2012. "Has Democratization Reduced Infant Mortality In Sub-Saharan Africa? Evidence From Micro Data," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 10(6), pages 1294-1317, December.
    16. Gerber, Elisabeth R & Morton, Rebecca B, 1998. "Primary Election Systems and Representation," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 14(2), pages 304-324, October.
    17. Bernard Caillaud & Jean Tirole, 2002. "Parties as Political Intermediaries," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1453-1489.
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    More about this item


    Political parties; Primaries; Candidate nomination procedures; D72; H39;

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • H39 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Other


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