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Kingmakers or Cheerleaders? Party Power and the Causal Effects of Endorsements

Kingmakers or Cheerleaders? Party Power and the Causal Effects of Endorsements When parties make endorsements in primary elections, does the favored candidate receive a real boost in his or her vote share, or do parties simply pick the favorites who are already destined to win? To answer this question, we draw on two research designs aimed at isolating the causal effect of Democratic Party endorsements in California’s 2012 primary election. First, we conduct a survey experiment in which we randomly assign a party endorsement, holding all other aspects of a candidate’s background and policy positions constant. Second, we use a unique dataset to implement a regression discontinuity analysis of electoral trends by comparing the vote shares captured by candidates who barely won or barely lost the internal party endorsement contest. We find a constellation of evidence suggesting that endorsements do indeed matter, although this effect appears to be contingent upon the type of candidate and voter: endorsements matter most for candidates in their party’s mainstream, and for voters who identify with that party and for independents. The magnitude of their impact is dramatically smaller than might be estimated from research designs less attuned to recent advances in causal inference. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Political Research Quarterly SAGE

Kingmakers or Cheerleaders? Party Power and the Causal Effects of Endorsements

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References (55)

Publisher
SAGE
Copyright
© 2015 University of Utah
ISSN
1065-9129
eISSN
1938-274X
DOI
10.1177/1065912915595882
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

When parties make endorsements in primary elections, does the favored candidate receive a real boost in his or her vote share, or do parties simply pick the favorites who are already destined to win? To answer this question, we draw on two research designs aimed at isolating the causal effect of Democratic Party endorsements in California’s 2012 primary election. First, we conduct a survey experiment in which we randomly assign a party endorsement, holding all other aspects of a candidate’s background and policy positions constant. Second, we use a unique dataset to implement a regression discontinuity analysis of electoral trends by comparing the vote shares captured by candidates who barely won or barely lost the internal party endorsement contest. We find a constellation of evidence suggesting that endorsements do indeed matter, although this effect appears to be contingent upon the type of candidate and voter: endorsements matter most for candidates in their party’s mainstream, and for voters who identify with that party and for independents. The magnitude of their impact is dramatically smaller than might be estimated from research designs less attuned to recent advances in causal inference.

Journal

Political Research QuarterlySAGE

Published: Sep 1, 2015

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