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Assessing the Representativeness of Electorates in Presidential Primaries

John G. Geer
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 32, No. 4 (Nov., 1988), pp. 929-945
DOI: 10.2307/2111195
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2111195
Page Count: 17
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Assessing the Representativeness of Electorates in Presidential Primaries
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Abstract

One of the widely held beliefs of students of American politics is that electorates in presidential primaries are unrepresentative of the party following. Specifically, scholars believe that voters in primaries are better paid, better educated, and more ideologically extreme than the party following. This paper challenges this belief. My results show that the party following, not voters in primaries, are better educated, better paid, and more ideologically extreme. This finding emerges quite clearly if one thinks of the "party following" not simply as people who identify with the party but rather as people who are potential supporters of the party in general elections. While electorates in primaries are still "unrepresentative" of the rank and file, the biases are small enough to have few consequences when selecting candidates. These results suggest that complaints about presidential primaries being unresponsive to the wishes of the rank and file may be misplaced, implying perhaps that we should be less critical of them.

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