Should We Expect Primary Elections to Create Polarization?

A Robust Median Voter Theorem with Rational Parties

Authored by: Gilles Serra

Routledge Handbook of Primary Elections

Print publication date:  February  2018
Online publication date:  February  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138684089
eBook ISBN: 9781315544182
Adobe ISBN:


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The introduction of primary elections is often presumed to carry important policy consequences. Every political party needs a procedure to nominate the person it will put forward for office at an upcoming election. Such a procedure is sometimes called a candidate-selection method (CSM), and primary elections are only one of many such methods. Historically, parties across the world have employed a diverse array of nomination processes such as delegate conventions and elite appointments, and only in recent times have primaries become more frequent. 1 In the United States, for example, the introduction of the direct primary is associated with the Progressive Era, roughly between 1890 and 1920. A number of legal reforms during this period were geared to disempowering party bosses. Primary elections were conceived as a way of transferring the responsibility to nominate candidates from a few hundred convention delegates to thousands of party members. 2 Among other goals, the reformers that advocate for primary elections in their countries are usually attempting to make parties more responsive to their rank-and-file members. Internal democracy is thus hailed as a major benefit of introducing primaries. 3

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