American Politics & Public Policy Workshop: James Snyder, “Primary Elections and Candidate Quality”
”Primary Elections and Candidate Quality”
Guest Speaker: James M. Synder, Jr., Leroy B. Williams Professor of History and Political Science, Harvard University
Abstract: We argue that the literature underestimates the value of primaries, because it focuses on overall average effects. Primary elections are most needed in safe constituencies, where the advantaged party’s candidate can usually win the general election – 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. We also show that these patterns are not only modern phenomena, but appeared immediately after primaries were introduced. (Link to advance paper.)
Speaker Bio: Professor Snyder’s primary research and teaching interests are in American politics, with a focus on political representation. He has written on a variety of topics, including elections, campaign finance, legislative behavior and institutions, interest groups, direct democracy, the media, and corruption. He is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
His articles have appeared in the American Political Science Review, the American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Politics, the American Economic Review, the Journal of Political Economy, Econometrica, and many other journals and edited volumes. He is co-author of The End of Inequality: One Person, One Vote and The Transformation of American Politics. Professor Snyder taught for six years in the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago, and for eighteen years in the Departments of Political Science and Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.