New IGS Research: Do Open Primaries Improve Representation?

voters at polling station
May 16, 2016

California’s new top-two primary system did not lead voters in 2012 to pick ideologically moderate candidates for Congress and the state Senate, according to newly published research from IGS Director Jack Citrin and two colleagues.

Citrin, IGS Graduate Fellow Douglas J. Ahler, and IGS Affiliated Faculty Member Gabe Lenz jointly published a new study in Legislative Studies Quarterly, “Do Open Primaries Improve Representation? An Experimental Test of California’s 2012 Top-Two Primary.”

The paper involved an experiment conducted just before California’s 2012 primary election, the first held under the new top-two system adopted by voters in 2010. The researchers found that voters failed to distinguish moderate and extreme candidates, and as a consequence actually chose more ideologically distant candidates on the new ballot.

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