J. Andrew Sinclair, Political Science Graduate Student at Cal Tech, Analyzes California Top-Two Primary

J. Andrew Sinclair, a PhD student at CalTech, has this eleven-page paper analyzing California’s top-two primary experience. The paper was completed shortly before the November 2012 election. Thanks to Election Updates for the link.


J. Andrew Sinclair, Political Science Graduate Student at Cal Tech, Analyzes California Top-Two Primary — 7 Comments

  1. ” Same-Party Runoffs Make the ‘Uncompetitive’ Competitive. Some districts that would normally be uncompetitive because they favor one party now have competitive races with same-party runoffs.

    ? Some Voters Backed Candidates Unlikely to Win. In primary elections with at least four candidates, many voters cast their ballots for candidates that placed fourth or worse; in about 2/3rds of those elections the votes cast for “lost causes” exceeded the difference between the second and third place candidates.”

    Reasons from this paper about why top-two is good.

  2. On page 7 he writes about strategic desertion where voters might abandon no-hope candidates. Under the blanket primary, one could see that phenomena in races where there was one candidate from each party in the primary, and all were guaranteed a place on the general election ballot. Invariably, 3rd party candidates did better in the primary where votes were meaningless, than in the general election, even though it is often claimed that supporters of 3rd parties don’t participate in the primary. While this is true among registered voters of the 3rd party, it is not true among the primary electorate as a whole.

    Under the blanket primary one would also see that when parties had multiple candidates, the party share was greater in the primary than the general election when they would have only one candidate. Some of this may have been cynical voting, where a voter whose party had a known nominee would cross over into another party’s nominating contest (the reason the blanket primary was determined to be unconstitutional). But it might also be sincere. A voter who in general prefers Democrats, may find something appealing among several Republicans or unappealing among a single Democrat.

    Under Top 2, when there were multiple Republicans candidates in the primary, the swing to the Democrats in a D vs. R general election tended to be greater than when there were just one or two Republicans. Some independents and Democrats were voting for Republicans and then switching to the Democrat when their favored candidate did not advance. The same can be seen in races with multiple Democratic candidates. (Overall there was a swing to the Democrats between the primary and general election, in part due to the uncontested nomination for president among the Democrats).

    Nonetheless, it appears that there is sincere cross-over voting.

  3. Top 2 = top 2 plurality extremists — instead of a mere one with regular plurality primaries.

    25 Z
    24 A
    18 M1
    17 M2
    16 M3
    M = moderate/rational
    A and Z — lunatic extremists

    NO primaries.
    P.R. and nonpartisan App.V.

  4. Scott, indeed. The “Top Two” concept of democracy seems to be some kind of attempt to reconcile two vastly different democratic voting methods — candidate-specific democracy and party-oriented democracy. At least some of the Constitutional Founders established a very limited franchise, aristocratic-based democracy. If you were allowed to vote, you voted for the MAN you thought best. And even then, the “ordinary” voter had very little control over his (not her) government.

    Political parties are simply a method of branding when most people in a mass democrcacy simply don’t have the time to understand every issue, let alone every candidate. That’s why virtually every recent new democacy in the world is a parliamentary system based upon parties.

  5. Again for clueless math folks — i.e. ALL of the regular MORON media, armies of polisci profs, etc. —

    1/2 votes x 1/2 gerrymander areas = 1/4 CONTROL — with or without top 2 primaries.
    P.R. and nonpartisan App.V.

  6. #4 It would be easier to explain what insincere or cynical cross-over voting is.

    In a blanket primary, all candidates seeking partisan nomination appear on the ballot. Voters may vote for any candidate for an office, but the votes for the candidates of each party are counted separately.

    If there is only one Republican candidate for an office, or there really was no contest, a Republican voter might vote for the Democratic candidate that they perceived as being easier to defeat in the general election. Or they might weigh in because they can. Under the blanket primary (1998 and 2000) there was one assembly race in California that had one Republican, one Democrat, and two Libertarians. The number of votes cast for the two Libertarians was much greater than the number of Libertarians in the district, and a larger share than the Libertarian nominee received in the general election.

    Some voters were reasoning that their vote for the single Democrat or single Republican did not matter, so they might as well choose between the two Libertarians.

    So these voters are not voting for the candidate they truly prefer. They are not even voting for a second or third choice who they think has a chance to win. They are voting cynically.

    Under Top 2, if a Republican votes for a Democrat in the primary, it reduces the chance that a Republican candidate will advance, and increases that for the candidate they vote for. There is a cost in crossing over, but presumably the voter sincerely supports the candidate.

    If there are two Republican candidates, they will tend to receive more votes than if there is one. If there are three, they will receive more votes than if there were only two, and so on. Some voters vote for the candidate rather than the party.

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