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An Experiment in Candidate Selection


  • Katherine Casey
  • Abou Bakarr Kamara
  • Niccoló Meriggi


Are ordinary citizens or political party leaders better positioned to select candidates? While the American primary system lets citizens choose, most democracies rely instead on party officials to appoint or nominate candidates. The consequences of these distinct design choices are unclear: while officials are often better informed about candidate qualifications, they may value traits—like party loyalty or willingness to pay for the nomination—at odds with identifying the best performer. We partnered with both major political parties in Sierra Leone to experimentally vary how much say voters have in selecting Parliamentary candidates. Estimates suggest that more democratic procedures increase the likelihood that parties select voters’ most preferred candidates and favor candidates with stronger records of public goods provision.

Suggested Citation

  • Katherine Casey & Abou Bakarr Kamara & Niccoló Meriggi, 2019. "An Experiment in Candidate Selection," NBER Working Papers 26160, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26160
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gilles Serra, 2011. "Why primaries? The party’s tradeoff between policy and valence," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 23(1), pages 21-51, January.
    2. Fernanda Brollo & Tommaso Nannicini & Roberto Perotti & Guido Tabellini, 2013. "The Political Resource Curse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(5), pages 1759-1796, August.
    3. Hirano,Shigeo & Snyder, Jr,James M., 2019. "Primary Elections in the United States," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781107440159, November.
    4. Hui Zou & Trevor Hastie, 2005. "Addendum: Regularization and variable selection via the elastic net," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series B, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 67(5), pages 768-768, November.
    5. Hirano,Shigeo & Snyder, Jr,James M., 2019. "Primary Elections in the United States," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781107080591, November.
    6. Hui Zou & Trevor Hastie, 2005. "Regularization and variable selection via the elastic net," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series B, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 67(2), pages 301-320, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Meinzen-Dick, Laura, 2020. "Decentralization and Elections in Burkina Faso," 2020 Annual Meeting, July 26-28, Kansas City, Missouri 304447, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    2. Klara Svitakova & Michal Soltes, 2020. "Sorting of Candidates: Evidence from 20,000 Electoral Ballots," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp652, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • H1 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • P16 - Political Economy and Comparative Economic Systems - - Capitalist Economies - - - Capitalist Institutions; Welfare State

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