Nominating Presidents: An Evaluation of Voters and Primaries

By John G. Geer | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION

As written in the initial section of this chapter, the rules governing primaries, not the voters in them, may be responsible for candidates with narrow bases of support winning the nomination. The evidence and arguments presented above offer support for that contention. To increase the chances that voters in primaries select candidates with widespread support, these intraparty struggles should rely on proportional representation schemes to allocate delegates, adopt a preference ballot, and allow independents and partisan defectors to participate in primaries.

The party does, however, have other concerns besides picking candidates with the most support. For instance, parties seek to choose an acceptable candidate quickly so as to avoid dividing the party. The proportional representation rule, for example, might keep contenders in the race longer than under a system that favors the winner. In 1988, for instance, Dole might have been able to stay in the race longer if the GOP had relied more on allocating delegates proportionally. Such prolonged candidacies can undermine party unity. 19 Also, allowing independents and partisans of the opposing party to participate may be seen by loyal partisans as undercutting the values of the party. If disillusioned, the "core" party supporters might be less willing to work for the party and contribute money to its campaign treasury. 20 Finally, a preference ballot could confuse voters (especially the poorly educated ones) and lessen turnout in the short run, which could potentially lead to voters who are highly unrepresentative of the rank and file selecting nominees. 21 Thus, when considering changes in the rules governing presidential primaries, such concerns must be balanced.

The more important lesson in this chapter, however, is that the rules governing presidential primaries need to be considered when assessing the characteristics of voters. Perhaps if additional rules were changed, then other weaknesses in the current system might be minimized. In the concluding chapter I shall consequently propose changes in the rules that take account of both the strengths and weaknesses of voters when choosing candidates.


NOTES
1.
The term broad support is quite vague. When, for instance, does a candidate possess broad support? The proportion of the vote a candidate receives in the general election is a problematic measure since that percentage is related to a number of things such as economic conditions, events in the international arena, the effectiveness of his or her campaign, and the popularity of the opponents. One might instead use the favorability ratings of the candidates. Under

-120-

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Nominating Presidents: An Evaluation of Voters and Primaries
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Political Science ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures and Tables ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Preface xv
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • Notes 11
  • 2 - The Representativeness of Voters in Presidential Primaries 15
  • 3 - Participation in Presidential Primaries 31
  • 4 - Information and Voters Presidential Primaries 45
  • 4 Information and Voters Presidential Primaries 57
  • 5 - Voting in Presidential Primaries 63
  • Notes 84
  • 6 - The Media and Voters in Presidential Primaries 89
  • Notes 103
  • 7 - A Few Rules of the Game 105
  • Conclusion 120
  • Notes 120
  • 8 - A Proposal for Reform 125
  • Notes 136
  • Appendix I Definition of Variables Used in Explaining Turnout 139
  • Appendix II Description of Survey Questions 141
  • Appendix III The Coding of the Open-Ended Comments 145
  • Bibliography 147
  • Index 155
  • About the Author 161
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