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Ideological extremism and primaries

Agustin Casas ()
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Agustin Casas: CUNEF

Economic Theory, 2020, vol. 69, issue 3, No 9, 829-860

Abstract: Abstract This paper is the first one to present a model of primaries with endogenous party affiliations. I show that closed primaries (where only affiliated party members can vote) result in more charismatic candidates than open primaries. This occurs because, in equilibrium, closed-primary voters care more about winning and therefore they are more willing to trade off their ideologically preferred candidate for one who is more likely to win, i.e., a more charismatic one. I also show that under open primaries, the party leaders have higher incentives to choose more extreme platforms. As a consequence, open-primary nominees are more likely to be extremists than closed-primary ones—which is consistent with the most recent empirical evidence. Finally, I show that, if instead of organizing primaries, party leaders were to handpick the nominees, the candidates would be even more moderate and more charismatic.

Keywords: Elections; Primaries; Polarization; Valence; Charisma; Open primaries; Closed primaries (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D02 D7 D72 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1007/s00199-019-01185-9

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