Distributive politics with primaries

  • Hirano S
  • Snyder J
  • Ting M
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We develop a model of electoral competition in which two parties compete
for votes amongst three groups of voters. Each party first internally
selects one of two candidates to run in a general election. Candidates
within a party share a fixed ideological platform and can promise
a distribution of a unit of public spending across groups. Without
primary elections, the selection process is random. With primary
elections, an ideologically friendly subset of the voters strategically
chooses the candidate. In the basic model, primary elections cause
politicians to cater to extreme groups rather than a moderate group
with many "swing voters." The amount promised to extreme groups is
decreasing in the ideological polarization of those groups, while
each party's probability of victory is increasing in the size and
extremity of its favored group. We also find that an incumbency advantage
reduces the amount promised to extremists, and therefore benefits

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  • Shigeo Hirano

  • James M. Snyder

  • Michael M. Ting

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