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Voters have five times more influence in early primaries in selecting presidential candidates: Varsity study

June 11, 2011 - Providence

The research conducted by Brown University economist Brian Knight has shown that voters in early primary states have up to five times more the influence than voters in later states when it comes to selecting presidential candidates.

The research published in The Journal of Political Economy, shows that voters in the early primary states have a disproportionate influence on who gets elected.

Knight's research paper co-authored by Nathan Schiff, is the first to quantify the effects of early victories in the race for the presidential nomination.

"Clearly, the primary calendar plays a key role in the selection of the nominee. 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," the Brown University press release quoted Knight, as saying.

Knight and Schiff developed a statistical model that examines how daily polling data responds to returns from presidential primaries. According the model, candidates can benefit from momentum effects when their performance in early states exceeds expectations.

The research also demonstrates how the disproportionate in?uence of early voters affected 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 concluded the research saying, "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 considered 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.


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