This article examines variation in partisanship levels across the United States between 1880 and 1940 and suggests that the introduction of three electoral laws in this time period - party registration, primaries and secret ballots - can explain the geographic variation in partisanship levels across the United States during this era. Specifically, the article argues that the introduction of party registration increased the observability of partisan behavior; and this, in turn, increased partisanship strength in the states in which party registration was introduced. Conversely, primaries and secret ballots reduced the observability of partisan actions, which consequently weakened the level of partisanship. The authors test their theoretical predictions on aggregate levels of split-ticket voting across the United States between 1880 and 1940. The authors find considerable support for their predictions in time-series cross-section (TSCS) estimates of the effects of electoral institutions on levels of partisanship across states, support undiminished after corrections for endogeneity and selection bias.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science