Interests & Goals of the Party, Presidential Candidates & Voters

This presentation from Dr. Melanie Springer (Wash U) was an excellent overview of primary timing and effects.

Aspects of primary timing and then survey results about what voters might want to see.

Primary reform: within American federalist system – it’s mostly been States determining rules of credentials and such. With decentralization, there’s  a lot of variety/fragmentation.  States get to decide rules is impressive –but tension between state & national objectives (around equality, fairness, etc…) – become more important when looking at presidential selection.

Extreme fragmentation – then named all sorts of different goups.  But fragmentation interpreted as irrational and disorganized.

Frontloading – in 2004 , iowa had a disproportionate value.  “Frontloading”= selection fo delegates earlier and earlier)

First super Tuesday in 1984 – 9 states  In 1988 – 21 states  = thus – huge % of the delegates selected on super Tuesday

By 1996 – evolved to a virtual national primary

In 2008 – had the most compressed schedule in history .

Showed map from of 2004 v. 2008 of states and when they held their primaries. 

Why frontloading has happened: self interest so that they can have more impact. 

Sequential voting allows voters to learn how other shave chosen before they have to choose.

Earlier voting decisions convey 2 types of info to later voters.

  1. Information about a canddiate’s polity positions or general qualities
  2. Information about how successful a candidate can be in defeating “the opposition”

Early wins & resources

  • Money raising is key here  -people want to give to a winner (and campaign costs increase over time).  Virtuous cycle
  • Therefore – a lot of the early voter states’ money has that much more emphasis. 

The earliest states:

Iowa & New Hampshire

  • They’re not considered reflective of the country and have disproportionate influence
  • They have extremely polarized parties. Therefore – average party member is more extreme than other places.  Therefore – perhaps the candidates they’re selecting are more polarizing candidates
  • In Iowa – rural dominated economy affects their decisions
  • If early voters are ideologically different than the later voters – does it mess up the ideological balance of the candidates.

Advantage of frontloading:

  • More media attention
  • More expenditures of time and money in state
  • More influence

Effect of frontloading:

  • To speed up the choice of nominees to months before their praty’s national convention

What happened in 2008?

  • Going last/close to last – gave states big exposure and impact
  • Many complained about how long and contentious the process was this time around.

Some recommendations  about how we reform this process:

  1. Set of regional primaries scheduled 2-3 weeks apart, with a randomly determined starting order
  2. Or a single national primary day

By slowing down the process – candidates could focus on a particular area – with incremental info gathering process to occur with voters.  Sequential still remains

Nationalizing campaign & unique fragmentation of the process

What the public wants (survey conducted in 2007)

  • Americans don’t care about the issue
  • They want continued control of the process and would be hostile about elite power
  • Support a national primary system compared to any other reform alternatives

Polling done in 2007 (not after the2008)

  • 42% are unhappy to some degree
  • 53% are unhappy to some degree

 Partisan  answers:

  • 65% of Republicans were happy
  • 52% of Dems are happy
  • 48% of Independents were happy

Primary timing?

  • 62% favor national primary
  • 55% favor not allowing New Hampshire to vote first

Fundamentally: 93% want it to be more predictable orderly & fair


Suzi Question: how do we unpack how Obama got elected and the value of the length of time he had to build up a head of steam and get to know each other?

A: Didn’t really answer the question.

Primaries have historically been all party insiders and not about general.


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