Eric McGhee of the Public Policy Institute of California and Boris Shor of the University of Houston have posted this Draft.
Party Polarization is perhaps the most significant Political trend of the past several decades of American Politics.
Many observers have pinned hopes on Institutional Reforms to reinvigorate the Political Center. The Top-Two Primary is one of the most interesting and closely-watched of these Reforms: a radically Open Primary system that removes much of the formal role for Parties in the Primary Election and even allows for Two Candidates of the same Party to face each other in the Fall.
In this paper, they leverage the adoption of the Top-Two to explore the Reform’s effects on Legislator Behavior. They find an inconsistent effect since the Reform was adopted.
The Evidence for Post-Reform Moderation is stronger in California than in Washington, but some of this stronger effect appears to stem from a contemporaneous Policy change, District lines drawn by an Independent Redistricting Commission, while still more might have emerged from a change in Term Limits that was also adopted at the same time.
The results validate some claims made by Reformers, but question others, and their magnitude casts some doubt on the potential for Institutions to reverse the Polarization trend.
These results are Preliminary, and do not necessarily speak to the Merits of these Reforms more generally, since moderation was not the only benefit supporters claimed for them. But the effects are conditional enough to broaden the conversation to these other Benefits as possible reasons for supporting Reform as well. At any rate, the Top-Two is an especially strong example of the sort of Institutional Reforms that might draw American Parties back toward the Center of the Ideological spectrum. The evidence for some effect bolsters the idea that Institutions are at least partly to blame, but given the magnitude of the Policy change the effect is fairly weak. Thus, while Institutions and Primaries in particular may be part of the story, the lion’s share of Polarization likely comes from some other source.
CLICK HERE to read the 37 page (pdf) Has The Top Two Primary Elected More Moderates?.
I favor Open Primaries but not Top-Two. I would rather see a version where the Candidates with 25%+ go to the General Election. So you could get a minimum of 2 and up to 4 Candidates. But to make Open Primaries work, you need two separate Ballot formats. The Party version is only for Party Members and would include Elections for Party Officials, Local and State County Committee Members, and Presidential Electors. The other format is for Non-Party Voters and would not include the Party Elections.
NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker