Voters have up to 5 times more influence in early primaries

Jun 10, 2011

Voters in states with early primary races such as Iowa and New Hampshire have up to five times the influence of voters in later states in selecting presidential candidates, according to research by Brown University economist Brian Knight. The paper, the first to quantify the effects of early victories in the race for the presidential nomination, is co-authored by Nathan Schiff and published in The Journal of Political Economy.

Knight and Schiff developed a that examines how daily polling data responds to returns from presidential primaries. In the model, candidates can benefit from momentum effects when their performance in early states exceeds expectations. For example, Knight and Schiff found that in 2004, benefited from surprising wins in early states and took votes away from Howard Dean, who held a strong lead prior to the beginning of the primary season. According to their research, Schiff and Knight predict that if states other than Iowa and New Hampshire had voted first in 2004, the Democratic nominee may have been John Edwards, rather than John Kerry.

"Clearly, the primary calendar plays a key role in the selection of the nominee," said Knight, associate professor of economics. "Evidence that early voters have a disproportionate influence over the selection of candidates violates 'one person-one vote' — a democratic ideal on which our nation is based."

Knight and Schiff also simulate the 2004 primary as a simultaneous national primary, which they predict would have been much tighter than Kerry's landslide victory, due to the absence of momentum effects. Additionally, the research demonstrates how this disproportionate influence of early voters affects candidates' allocation of campaign resources, as measured by advertising expenditures. They found that candidates spent a disproportionately high amount in states with early primaries. The economists conclude, "While these results are specific to the 2004 primary, we feel that they are informative more generally in the debate over the design of electoral systems in the United States and elsewhere..."

Knight's current work addresses the policy implications of this research, exploring which system is the best in terms of selecting the best candidates. The work considers whether there should be a national primary in which every state votes on the same day, the current sequential system, or possibly a hybrid system with a rotating regional primary.

Explore further: Study finds Illinois is most critical hub in food distribution network

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Divisive primaries help challengers and hurt incumbents

Sep 23, 2010

Divisive primaries may waste precious campaign resources and damage the primary winner's reputation and chances to win the general election, according to a study in the current American Politics Research (published by SAG ...

Recommended for you

Ancient clay seals may shed light on biblical era

8 hours ago

Impressions from ancient clay seals found at a small site in Israel east of Gaza are signs of government in an area thought to be entirely rural during the 10th century B.C., says Mississippi State University archaeologist ...

Digging up the 'Spanish Vikings'

Dec 19, 2014

The fearsome reputation of the Vikings has made them the subject of countless exhibitions, books and films - however, surprisingly little is known about their more southerly exploits in Spain.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

tjcoop3
not rated yet Jun 10, 2011
Good news for Ron Paul. I live in Iowa so we won't be supporting any change probably in their lifetime.
Go Ron Paul!!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.