A Primary Cause of Partisanship? Nomination Systems and Legislator Ideology

Eric Mcghee, Seth Masket, Boris Shor, Steven Rogers, Nolan Mccarty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Many theoretical and empirical accounts of representation argue that primary elections are a polarizing influence. Likewise, many reformers advocate opening party nominations to nonmembers as a way of increasing the number of moderate elected officials. Data and measurement constraints, however, have limited the range of empirical tests of this argument. We marry a unique new data set of state legislator ideal points to a detailed accounting of primary systems in the United States to gauge the effect of primary systems on polarization. We find that the openness of a primary election has little, if any, effect on the extremism of the politicians it produces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-351
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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