Original Paper

Political Behavior

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 331-355

First online:

Correct Voting in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Nominating Elections

  • Richard R. LauAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, Rutgers University Email author 

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Criticisms of the system by which the American political parties select their candidates focus on issues of representativeness—how choices are dominated by relatively small numbers of ideologically extreme primary voters, or how residents of small states voting early in the process have disproportionate influence. This paper adds a different concern, albeit one that still addresses representativeness. How well do primary and caucus voters represent their own values and interests with their vote choices? Lau and Redlawsk’s notion of “correct voting” is applied to the 2008 U.S. nominating contests. Four reasons to expect levels of correct voting to be lower in caucus and primary elections than in general election campaigns are discussed. Results suggest that voters in U.S. nominating contests do much worse than voters in general election campaigns, often barely doing better than chance in selecting the candidate who best represents their own values and priorities. Discussion focuses on institutional reforms that should improve citizens’ ability to make correct voting choices in caucuses and primaries.


Correct voting Primary elections Voting behavior Institutional effects Political cognition Cognitive limitations