Primary Day Campaign Yard Signs in Pennsylvania's 13th District -- May 21, 2015

Primary Day Campaign Yard Signs in Pennsylvania's 13th District -- May 21, 2015

Political Networks and Primary Elections

The scholarship on political parties has largely focused on their declining influence. Specifically, many claim that through the widespread adoption of the partisan primary, control over the nomination of candidates has been largely relegated to the ambitions and talents of the office-seekers themselves. In my dissertation, I challenge this perspective, arguing that networks of partisan interests still play a major role in determining a party’s nominee. To support this claim, I combine field interviews, journalistic accounts, election results, and campaign finance disclosures to demonstrate the systematic elect of political networks on the electoral prospects of primary candidates. I provide a series of case studies to show the impact of party networks and to demonstrate the underlying mechanism – the diverse campaign resources that these networks are able to marshal on behalf of their candidates. To generalize these findings, I use campaign finance data for candidates between 1980 and 2014 to construct a novel measure of group support – existing network density – derived from the degree of coordination present among a candidate’s campaign contributors. I find that greater network support provides a significant benefit to candidates seeking consequential open-seat nominations for the House of Representatives. These effects remain over time and across parties after controlling for measures of candidate viability, such as fundraising and previous elected experience. This suggests that while the party organizations may have fewer formal powers over the selection of candidates for office, the constellation of organized interests constituting these political parties have lost little of their clout in the electoral process.


Table of Contents
[1] Chapter 1: Introduction
[2] Chapter 2: Primary Elections and Political Parties
[3] Chapter 3: Networks on the Ground
[4] Chapter 4: Measuring Group Support
[5] Chapter 5: Clearing the Field
[6] Chapter 6: Winning the Nomination
[7] Chapter 7: Conclusion

Working Papers

[1] "We Don't Want Nobody Nobody Sent: Party Network Influence in Primary Nominations.'' Presented at MPSA 2018. 
[2] "Dividing the Dollars: Contribution Networks and Political Polarization." Presented at MPSA 2017. 

Regressive Reforms

From polarization to inequality, from corruption to prejudice, reforms to the political process are often presented as cures to many societal shortcomings. These policies, however, usually have unintended consequences ignored by reformers and the evidence of their effectiveness is often lacking. For example, the Top-Two Primary system in California was proposed to help alleviate polarization. In one paper [1] based on simulations and survey data, I show that these voting methods are unlikely to moderate outcomes and have the unintended consequence of decreasing voter turnout. 

[1] "Electoral Reform and Political Polarization: A Simulation-Based Look at the Top-Two Primary." 2017. Presented at MPSA 2018. 

Parties on the Ground

A holistic approach to the study of House Nominations during the 2014 primary election cycle. Co-authored with Kathleen Bawn, Knox Brown, Angela Ocampo, John Ray, and John Zaller. 

Book Manuscripts

[1] Parties on the Ground: A Study of Nominations to the U.S. House of Representatives. n progress. 

Working Papers

[1] "Parties on the Ground: A Preliminary Report on Open Seat Nominations." 2014. Presented at APSA 2014.
[2] "Social Choice and Coordination Problems in Open House Primaries." 2015. Presented at APSA 2015. 

Congressional Primaries

Do divisive primaries hurt parties in the general election? Using a geographic regression discontinuity model and extensive qualitative evidence from Pennsylvania's 13th congressional district, I suggest that when voter's preferred candidates fail in a primary, they are less likely to participate in the general election. 

Working Papers

[1] "Turned Off or Turned Out: Effects of Primaries on Congressional Turnout''  

The first exit poll of congressional primary voters from four competitive House primaries in the 2014 primary election cycle. Co-authored with Stephanie DeMora, Andrew Dowdle, Spencer Hall, Mark Meyers, Angela Ocampo, and John Zaller. 

Working Papers

[1] "He Who Can Make Nominations is the Owner of the Party: Evidence from Field Studies of Four House Nominations." 2015. Presented at APSA 2015.