It’s hard to understand American politics without understanding party primaries.Primary elections determine the choices (or lack of choices) a voter will have in her November, but beyond that, they define key differences Between Parties and very important big differences internal party. These differences tell us a lot about the constraints on how party leaders act in the years to come, and can lead to small to big shifts in party legitimacy. We examined congressional primaries in four separate elections in 2016, 2018, and 2022. .) In each year of the primary project, we systematically examined all candidates who participated in the ballot to run for the House and Senate in that year. Basic demographic information about the candidates. , positions on issues of the day, and overall ideological positions within the party. In American politics, for the past two generations, the majority of congressional districts have been safe for either party, so the only constituencies that many Congressmen feel vulnerable are their primaries.
Thus, the issues and divisions that emerge in party primaries, as well as the issues and divisions that distinguish the two political parties, shape the outcome of American politics. American party primaries present a paradox. Most congressional primaries are uncompetitive, and when they are competitive, the incumbent wins overwhelming time. Still, members of Congress will coordinate their actions to protect themselves from major challenges. In his 2018 paper that I wrote with his James Wallner, based on a review of the literature and interviews with incumbents from both parties, we found:
- Incumbents worry about major threats.
- Incumbents believe the contested primary will hurt their chances in the general election.
- Incumbents exaggerate their successes on key challenges.When
- Incumbents believe that behavioral change can help delay or defeat key challengers.
This blog post is the first of three reports on candidates running in the 2022 House and Senate primaries. Part I uses basic demographic information to focus on those who have decided to run for Congress. Part II focuses on the political factions within each party that the candidates align with. Part III will focus on the issues that create the most severe divisions between and within the parties.
In 2022, 2,362 candidates ran for party and independent primaries in California, Washington, Alaska, and Nebraska. This was only slightly more than those who ran in 2018 (82 candidates). On the other hand, 2018 had more Democratic than Republican candidates because 2018 was predicted to be a good year for Democrats and 2022 for Republicans.
In 2022, 162 members of Congress ran for re-election, but never faced their first challenger. Thus, 284 incumbents, or 64% of the seats for which incumbents ran for election, faced at least one major challenger. The trend seems to be for incumbents to challenge primaries more often. For example, in 2004, only 25% of Democrats and 20% of Republicans had major problems. in his first decade of the 21st centuryst In the 20th century, the Tea Party and later MAGA forces were absent, and the Bernie Sanders movement within the Democratic Party had not gained strength ten years later.
These figures remained fairly stable until 2010, when nearly 50% of Republican congressmen faced challengers. Since 2010, the number of incumbents facing challenges remains high. This trend reflects the increasing polarization of our politics, the growing strength of factions within each party, and contesting primaries as a highly cost-effective way of changing parties. Today we see far-right Trump Republicans trying to remake the Republican Party from within, and more progressive Democrats doing the same within their own party.
But even with more challengers, the basic fact remains that incumbents win primaries most of the time. As of 2022, only 15 incumbents have lost the primary election. That’s more than his eight incumbents lost in 2020, and more incumbents lost in 2014, 2016 and 2018, but nearly half of those who have lost so far have lost another. I was in a reorganized seat fighting the incumbent. The incumbent had to lose. The last time an incumbent had lost more than 10 races was in 2012, the year he reorganized after the 2010 Census, when an incumbent moved to a new district or had another race. It was when I played against an incumbent.
So who has the time, money and ability to disrupt their lives to run for Congress in the first place?
Most of the people running for Congress are middle-aged, white, male, and married. Unsurprisingly, Democratic candidates are more diverse. 72% of Republican candidates are white and 48% of Democratic candidates are white. There are more African-American candidates in the Democratic Party. Twenty-five percent of all Democratic candidates are African-American, while 7% of all Republican candidates are African-American. Among Latinos, the gap is not as large. 11% of Democratic candidates are Latino and 8% of Republican candidates are Latino.
By 2022, 27% of all candidates for parliament will be women and 73% will be men. 34% of Democrats were women, as opposed to 22% of Republicans. The number of women running for office in 2022 (630) is slightly higher than the number who ran in 2018 (528 or 23%). Moreover, in 2018, as in 2022, more of these candidates were Democrats than Republicans. A sign of changing times – her five candidates who identified as transgender/non-binary, all Democrats.
Exactly 50% of all 2022 candidates are married, and for the majority of the rest, marital status could not be determined. More Republicans said they were married than Democrats. Only 1.6% of candidates identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, and almost all of these were Democrats.
Candidates for Congress also tend to be fairly educated. The majority of candidates (71%) have a college or graduate degree. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to have graduate degrees. However, it is possible that more people do not have a college degree, as many do not include any educational information.
Finally, we checked whether the candidate had served in the military. In total he had 404 candidates for military service, most of whom served with great pride. That’s about the same number of active duty/veterans who ran for office in 2018. As in 2018, most of the military service (72%) were Republicans.
Overall, electoral politics is still dominated by highly educated white men. There are some exceptions. In the Democratic Party, African-Americans have a significant preponderance. African Americans make up 12% of her population, but participate heavily in Democratic politics. 25% of his 2022 Democratic nominees were African American. Latinos, on the other hand, make up 19% of the population, but far fewer are running for public office. Only 11% of Democratic candidates are Hispanic, compared to 8% of Republican candidates. This may be because the Latinx population is more compacted geographically, or because they are a younger population and need more experience to run for office, especially Congress. That is a topic for future research.
Next, we look at the ideological makeup of the 2022 reserve candidates…