choosing candidates unable to compete successfully in November. Table 4.5 presents data concerning the proportion of voters who are aware of the chances of their party's contenders to win both the nomination and general election.
As the table shows, when two candidates compete, voters generally have some idea of the chances of the contenders seeking their party's nomination. In Los Angeles ( 1976), over 95 percent of Republican identifiers were willing to estimate both Reagan's and Ford's chances for the nomination and general election. In a four-candidate race, over 80 percent of voters in Erie ( 1976) estimated at least two of the four contenders' chances for the nomination, and 32.2 percent estimated the chances of all four candidates. By the time of the California primary, over 40 percent of voters estimated the chances of all the remaining Democratic contenders. This slight increase is probably due to the additional opportunities voters in California had to learn about the candidates' chances. In 1988, about 65 percent of Republican voters assessed the prospects of the four major contenders for the nomination. Only 2 percent had no guesses on any of the four contenders. In the Democratic camp, 82.2 percent knew two of the four contenders' chances for the nomination.
Interestingly, these estimates of the candidates' chances were reasonably accurate. By the time of the 1976 California primary, the vast majority of voters saw Carter as the likely nominee, with a few respondents holding out hope for Jerry Brown.5 In 1988, voters saw Bush as the favorite for the nomination with Dole a close second. Robertson was not seen as a likely winner of either the nomination or the general election. While there was more uncertainty on the Democratic side, Dukakis was viewed as the favorite by voters prior to Super Tuesday. Jackson, as one might expect, was viewed as unlikely to win the general election or the nomination. Most pundits held similar views of the 1976 and 1988 contests, suggesting that voters in primaries may be able to estimate with some accuracy the relative chances of the contenders.
The evidence presented in this chapter has a number of implications. First, when voters in primaries are faced with a choice between two candidates, they appear as informed as are voters in general elections. While this finding does not necessarily mean that voters in primaries are well enough informed to make good choices, it does suggest that they may be able to do as good a job of selecting a candidate as are voters in general elections. The second and probably more important implication is that as the number of competing candidates increases, the more likely it is that voters will be unfamiliar with all the possible choices facing them. Consequently, in the earlier primaries when there can be a large