NEW POLL: 5 Years In, CA Voters Still Love Nonpartisan Primaries

Five years after adopting top-two, nonpartisan open primaries, California has seen its legislature transform from a state of dysfunction into a successful model for reform. Now, a new survey reveals that the people of California are noticing.

Last month, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) found that most voters in California are satisfied with the state’s nonpartisan open primary system, with 60% of likely voters in California saying it has “been mostly a good thing.”

The PPIC’s findings reflect the role that top-two has played in reducing the polarization and paralysis that once gripped California’s legislature.

Recognizing that a flawed electoral system was the root source of this problem, voters passed Prop 14 in 2010 — a measure to open the primaries in all state and congressional races.

Under the top-two primary, all voters can vote for any candidate in the primary, with the top two vote-getters advancing to the general election regardless of party. This system differs from “partisan open primaries,” in which voters must select a party ballot to vote on.

The PPIC found that most voters in California are satisfied with the state’s nonpartisan open primary system...
Stephanie Geier, Open Primaries intern

Why do most Californians approve of the system?

Research conducted by Jason Olson of Open Primaries and political scientist Omar H. Ali of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro on the “early successes” of California’s top-two primaries revealed a host of likely reasons.

For instance, now that candidates have the incentive to appeal to all voters (not just those on extreme ends of the political spectrum), California currently boasts the nation’s most competitive elections, as well as record numbers of defeated incumbents.

Now that legislators must be loyal to their constituents (not their parties), California has seen legislators break with their parties on key votes.

Nonpartisan open primaries have led to the election of more moderate officials who are willing to reach across party lines and actually get things done for the people. The result? Public approval for California’s state legislature has skyrocketed by 300%.

PPIC’s findings not only reaffirm this uptick in public approval, but further show that Californians know they made the right decision when they chose to give a voice to the state’s 4.5 million independent voters.

When all voters can vote, everyone benefits. And now, the numbers show it.

Editor’s note: This article, written by Open Primaries intern Stephanie Geier, originally published on Open Primaries’ blog, and has been modified slightly for publication on IVN. 

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