The Nature of Crossover Voters

Authored by: Barbara Norrander

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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Crossover voters are either the heroes or villains of primary electorates. To those concerned that partisan voters in primary electorates are too ideologically extreme, crossover voters are viewed as a moderating force. This assumption leads many primary reformers to seek out participation formats that downplay the importance of partisan voters and open up participation to more independents. On the other hand, to party officials crossover voters distort the will of the party’s most loyal voters. Indeed, the Democratic Party in its late twentieth-century reform movement emphasized that participation in their presidential nominations should be open to all Democrats, rather than all voters. In the 1980s the Democratic Party even sued the state of Wisconsin to keep it from holding an open presidential primary, though the party subsequently relented and allowed states which traditionally used the format to continue to do so. 1 Arguments for and against the presence of crossover voters in partisan primaries are many and varied.

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