Publication Date

April 2016

Advisor(s)

Logan Dancey

Major

Government

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

Since the 1970s, the process of polarization in American politics has resulted in a growing divide between the Republican and Democratic parties. In recent decades, there has been a growing number of ideologically extreme candidates in congressional elections and extreme politicians in Congress. Political scientists have devoted considerable attention to this polarization process and the study of congressional elections. This thesis works to contribute to this segment of the literature by conducting a quantitative analysis aimed at determining the conditions that are most conducive to extremist success in congressional primaries. The results of this study point to the critical importance of fundraising in both absolute and relative terms, in regards to extremist success. They also demonstrate that partisan leanings of districts and states play a role in the chances that the most extreme candidate wins the primary. There is mixed evidence as to the impact of district education levels and no evidence to suggest that neither primary type, nor the size of the field of candidates influences extremist success.

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