Signaling Valence in Primary Elections
CSEF Working Papers from Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy
I build a model of two-stage (primary and general) elections in which primary election candidates differ in terms of a privately observed quality dimension (valence). I show that primary election candidates have the incentive to signal their valence by means of their policy platform choice. There can be two types of separating equilibria in primary elections: an extremist equilibrium, in which valent candidates choose more extreme policies than non-valent ones, and a centrist one, in which valent candidates instead move close to the incumbent from the opposing party. The ideology of primary elections voters is the main driver of the choice of one versus the other separating strategy. I also study the conditions under which party voters benefit from primaries, as well as those under which primaries increase the probability for a party of winning the general election. Finally, I assess the effects of incumbency advantage/disadvantage, explore alternative patterns of valence observability and extend the model to account for both parties holding primaries.
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