Two-stage elections, strategic candidates, and campaign agendas

Kevin K. Banda, Thomas M. Carsey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Candidates employ strategies that depend on the electorate involved and the opponent(s) they face. In two-stage elections - elections that include both a primary and a general election - candidates must balance the need to satisfy their party's electorate and defeat their primary opponent(s) with the need to appeal to the electorate as a whole in order to defeat their general election opponent. That balance will depend on whether the primary stage is contested or not. We evaluate how candidates in 56 U.S. Senate and gubernatorial campaigns respond to these considerations by analyzing the bundles of issues candidates emphasize in their campaign advertising. As expected, electoral competition leads candidates to emphasize similar issues over the course of their campaigns. As a result, candidates involved in contested primaries adopt a mixed strategy, responding both to their primary election opponents and their eventual general election opponent during the primary-election phase of the contest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-230
Number of pages10
JournalElectoral Studies
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Campaigns
  • Issue ownership
  • Political advertising
  • Primary elections


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