Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 9 > Issue 4

Primary Elections and the Quality of Elected Officials

Shigeo Hirano, Columbia University, USA, sh145@columbia.edu James M. Snyder Jr., Harvard University and NBER, USA, jsnyder@gov.harvard.edu
Suggested Citation
Shigeo Hirano and James M. Snyder Jr. (2014), "Primary Elections and the Quality of Elected Officials", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 9: No. 4, pp 473-500. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00013096

Published: 22 Dec 2014
© 2014 S. Hirano and J. M. Snyder, Jr.
Elections,  Electoral behavior,  Electoral institutions,  Political parties

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In this article:
1. Partisan Incumbency Advantage: An Overlooked Quantity of Interest
2. Personal Incumbency Advantage and the Bias of Previous Estimates
3. The RD Estimator: A Combination of the Personal and Partisan Advantages
4. Identification Strategy: Exploiting Close Elections and Term Limits
5. Results: Large Personal Advantage and No Partisan Advantage
6. Discussion and Conclusion


In this paper we argue that the literature underestimates the value of primaries because it focuses on overall average effects. We argue that primary elections are most needed in safe constituencies, where the advantaged party's candidate can usually win the general election 舒 even if she is low quality. If the main role of elections is to select good candidates, then advantaged party primaries in open seat races are particularly consequential. We provide evidence that these primaries are especially effective at selecting high quality types. This appears to be driven both by differences in the proportion of high quality candidates competing in the primaries and also by voter behavior.


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DOI: 10.1561/100.00013096_supp