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Crashing the party: advocacy coalitions and the nonpartisan primary

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 November 2017

J. Andrew Sinclair
Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, New York University, USA E-mail:
Ian O’Grady
Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford, UK E-mail:
Brock McIntosh
Logistics Management Institute, USA E-mail:
Carrie Nordlund
Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University, USA E-mail:


California and Washington recently replaced traditional partisan elections with nonpartisan “top-two” election procedures. Some reform advocates hoped that voters would behave in a way to support moderate candidates in the primary stage; the limited evidence for this behaviour has led some scholars to conclude that the reform has little chance to change meaningful policy outcomes. Yet we find that the nonpartisan procedure has predictable and disparate political consequences: the general elections between two candidates of the same party, called copartisan general elections, tend to occur in districts without any meaningful crossparty competition. Furthermore, copartisan elections are more likely to occur with open seats, when a new legislator will begin building a network of relationships. The results, viewed through the lens of the Advocacy Coalition Framework, suggest that opportunities exist for coalitional rearrangement over time.

Research Article
© Cambridge University Press, 2017 

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