Optimal resource allocation in presidential primaries

Steven J. Brams, Morton D. Davis

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    A model for the optimal allocation of resources in presidential primaries is described, under the assumption that two candidates seek to maximize their expected delegate vote in a sequential game that allows for momentum transfer from earlier to later contests. Specifically, the model assumes that the probability that a voter in a primary state votes for a particular candidate is a function of both the resources that candidate and his opponent allocate to that primary and their performances in the immediately preceding primary - and indirectly on all earlier primaries. Given that the candidates make equal (optimal) allocations to each primary, a local maximum, which heavily emphasizes the earlier primaries, is found. Several modifications in the basic model are discussed. Preliminary financial expenditure data are used to test the basic model for the 1976 primaries, and some cursory comparisons with 1980 are made. Possible normative implications of changes in the primary rules are briefly considered, particularly with respect to inequities the present rules seem to engender.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)373-388
    Number of pages16
    JournalMathematical social sciences
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Dec 1982


    • Campaign resource allocation
    • primary campaign

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • General Social Sciences
    • General Psychology
    • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty


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