A dynamic model of primaries

Tara Slough, Erin A. York, Michael M. Ting

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Primary elections are increasingly popular around the world, but historically political parties have typically chosen their candidate selection mechanisms in a decentralized manner. We develop a theory that accounts for variation in the use of primary elections in these settings. In our model, two parties choose candidates for general elections over an infinite horizon. Each party has an elite and a nonelite faction, where the elite faction can choose whether to hold primaries or nominate itself. Primaries produce more electable candidates, but losing a primary also deprives elites of private goods and future elite status. The model predicts that parties adopt primaries under high ideological polarization or when they are electorally disadvantaged. Additionally, we show how rigidities in the ability of winners to change candidate selection mechanisms can increase the universal adoption of primaries in electorally volatile environments.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1443-1457
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of Politics
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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