Search This Blog

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Top Two Primary in California -- Meh!

At The Sacramento Bee, David Siders reports on recent research  on California’s experience with the top-two primary system:
▪ Though concluding that the top-two primary “did not, in the end, discernibly alter the outcomes of the 2014 primaries,” Thad Kousser, a political science professor at the University of California, San Diego, finds the system helped shape the field of candidates in some races.
▪ In the controller’s race, where an unexpected surge by an unknown Republican named David Evans nearly left Democrats without a candidate in the November runoff, Kousser wrote “the quirks of the top-two structure and a crowded field on the left side of the ideological spectrum … nearly yielded a Democratic – and, arguably, a small ‘d’ democratic – disaster.’”
▪ While proponents of the top-two primary system have said the system could help decrease political polarization and improve the prospects of more moderate candidates, a review of Congressional contests in 2012 suggests the top-two system largely failed to achieve that goal.
One reason why, according to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, is that people didn’t know much about where candidates fell on the ideological spectrum.
▪ And all that ignorance is despite our ability to use Google.
Analyzing public “Google Trends” data for California state legislators from June 2010 to February 2013, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found lawmakers facing challenges from members of their own party in a runoff election were associated with a 13 percent to 15 percent increase in searches ahead of the election.
The full journal, published by the Institute of Governmental Studies at University of California, Berkeley, can be found here.
The system has failed utterly in improving turnout.  Voter participation in both the primary and general election was at a record low.

Read more here: