The Impact of Prolonged Nomination Contests on Presidential Candidate Evaluations and General Election Vote Choice: The Case of 2008
Political Science and International Affairs
The fact that political parties hold competitive nomination contests that require voters to choose among multiple candidates leaves open the possibility that the contest itself could damage the prospects of an eventual nominee. In this study, we employ the American National Election Study panel survey data from the 2008 U.S. presidential election to assess the impact of the Democratic Party nomination process on candidate evaluations and general election vote preference. We find evidence that Barack Obama had greater difficulty uniting his party than his Republican counterpart due to the fact that Clinton voters were slow to coalesce around Obama. These supporters failed to report higher levels of favorability until Clinton conceded the race in the summer, while Huckabee and Romney voters were seen rallying to their party's nominee in the spring. In the end, many Clinton primary voters either abstained from voting in November or crossed over to support the Republican nominee.
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