The viability primary: Modeling Candidate Support before the Primaries

Andrew J. Dowdle, Randall E. Adkins, Wayne P. Steger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Public support before the primaries is the strongest predictor of presidential candidate attrition and of the aggregate primary vote. Yet little is known about the factors that drive candidate preferences before the primaries. This article examines pre-primary candidate support in national Gallup polls for open presidential nomination races from 1976 to 2004. The study finds that candidate background characteristics have marginal effects on mass partisan support during the earliest phase of the nomination campaign and that campaign-related factors significantly affect pre-primary candidate support once the campaign begins. Prior levels of support, network news coverage, and party elite endorsements are significant factors in explaining variation in mass partisan support for candidates throughout the nomination campaign. The decisions of well-known, party ĝ€heavyweightsĝ€ to enter or not enter the race affect the choices available to partisan voters and the overall competitiveness of the nomination campaign.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-91
Number of pages15
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2009


  • Party elites
  • Polls
  • Presidential nominations
  • Primaries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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