Do open primaries improve representation? An experimental test of California's 2012 top-two primary
- Author(s): Ahler, DJ
- Citrin, J
- Lenz, GS
- et al.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1111/lsq.12113
To improve representation and alleviate polarization among US lawmakers, many have promoted open primaries - allowing voters to choose candidates from any party - but the evidence that this reform works is mixed. To determine whether open primaries lead voters to choose ideologically proximate candidates, we conducted a statewide experiment just before California's 2012 primaries, the first conducted under a new top-two format. We find that voters failed to distinguish moderate and extreme candidates. As a consequence, voters actually chose more ideologically distant candidates on the new ballot, and the reform failed to improve the fortunes of moderate congressional and state senate candidates.