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PIPE Workshop: Kathleen Bawn, UCLA

Published by USC Bedrosian Center on

Beyond a Reliable Vote: Coordination and Information Problems in Congressional Nominations

Research in collaboration with: Knox Brown, Angela Ocampo, Shawn Patterson, John Ray and John Zaller

Congressional primaries, like primary elections in general, are imagined to give voters, rather than party elites, the ability to choose which candidate wins the nomination. Indeed, we might expect primary election outcomes to reflect the preferences of the median primary voter, in roughly the way we expect general election outcomes to reflect the preferences of the overall district median.

We challenge this conventional wisdom.

We argue that primary elections follow a fundamentally different logic than general elections, due to the absence of party as a cue, and to the presence of more than two viable candidates.  Drawing on empirical insights from our 2014 field study of nominations to open House seats, we argue that the congressional nomination process, and therefore the selection of MCs, is dominated by the preferences of the organized groups affiliated with each party.


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