Title

Can Contested Primaries and Turnout in Primaries Reduce Corruption and Rent-Seeking?

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Arts

Major

Political Science

Date of Defense

11-19-2015

Graduate Advisor

David Kimball

Committee

David Robertson

Adriano Udani

Abstract

Rent-seeking and corruption involving elected officials represent a betrayal of citizen trust, and many scholars believe these acts have detrimental impacts on economic growth. This makes the study of rent-seeking and corruption an important topic. The research question presented here is whether contested primary elections and primary election turnout can help reduce rent-seeking and corruption. The reasons this might be true can be seen through connections in the scholarly literature regarding the function of political parties and organized interests, the importance of citizen engagement in holding elected officials accountable, and the increase in safe seats among legislative bodies. With more legislative seats being safe for a particular political party, the primary election may be increasing in importance relative to the general election, in terms of selecting the candidates and holding them accountable. Uncontested primaries and low turnout in primaries might possibly be fostering corruption. Data from U.S. state legislatures will be analyzed in an attempt to determine whether greater levels of contested primaries and contested primary turnout are associated with less corruption. While not conclusive, the results presented here provide some initial support for the contested primary and turnout hypothesis of corruption.

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