Voting in Presidential Primaries
When assessing the qualifications of voters in primaries to choose presidential candidates, a major issue becomes how these participants form preferences for candidates. While the previous chapter examined the information voters in primaries possess, I have yet to address how they actually go about choosing contenders. This matter is crucial in deciding whether voters in primaries can select good candidates. If voters employ a questionable decision-rule, it becomes problematic as to whether they should be used to select presidential aspirants. But on the other hand, if voters choose candidates in a reasonable fashion, one's faith in using these citizens to select nominees should increase.
Previous research paints a mixed portrait concerning the quality of voters' decisions. Patterson ( 1980), for instance, argues that the news media play a large role in shaping voters' preferences, which suggests that journalists may be indirectly selecting nominees. Bartels ( 1988) and Brady and Johnston ( 1987) lend some support to this view, arguing that the electoral prospects of the candidates play a major role in who voters support. It is, of course, the news media's emphasis on the "horse race" that supplies the information about the chances of the candidates. While Bartels ( 1988) and Brady and Johnston ( 1987) contend that "expectations matter," these scholars also find that the candidates' views on issues have some influence on voters' choices. But if their overall findings are correct, it suggests that most voters are swayed primarily by matters that provide few indications about how good a president any of these candidates might make.
Another set of scholars has, however, found that candidates' personal qualities structure the preferences of most voters ( Williams et al. 1976;
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Publication information: Book title: Nominating Presidents:An Evaluation of Voters and Primaries. Contributors: John G. Geer - Author. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1989. Page number: 63.
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