Benjamin I. Page & Martin Gilens

Benjamin I. Page, Gordon Scott Fulcher Professor of Decision Making at Northwestern University, and Martin Gilens, professor of public policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, are authors of Democracy in America? What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do About It

Recent Articles

Response: The Trouble with Primaries

In dark times it is especially important to recognize that change is possible and that efforts to make American democracy more equitable and effective can succeed. We are grateful to Drew Penrose for pointing to the many places in our country where the kinds of voting reforms we are advocating have been proposed or are already in use. We also applaud the work of FairVote in analyzing, publicizing, and advocating for voting reforms of the sort we discussed. We remain concerned that even with ranked-choice voting (RCV) in multi-member districts (as in H.R. 3057), separate party primaries would continue to empower candidates who appeal to the partisan fringes, the affluent, and organized interest groups. Partisan primaries inherently disfavor candidates with broad appeal to independents and members of the other party. Moreover, low, biased turnout in primaries can make the results unrepresentative even of rank-and-file party members. Yet even if we were to retain partisan primaries, a...

Making American Democracy Representative

A bold three-part proposal to introduce ranked-choice voting and proportional representation—and to abolish primaries

This article appears in the Fall 2018 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Americans are starting to catch on to the fact that our system of “first past the post” plurality voting in single-member districts can lead to perverse results. The citizens of Maine, for example, got stuck with an unpopular reactionary governor, Paul LePage, after he was elected in 2010 with just 38 percent of the vote in a three-way race. Out of frustration, Mainers have since instituted an alternative system called ranked-choice voting (RCV). With RCV, voters do not just pick one candidate; they rank all the candidates in order of preference, from most favored to least favored. The candidate with the most first-choice votes wins outright only if he or she gets a majority of those votes. Otherwise, voters’ second choices come into play. (See sidebar below.) In a moderately conservative state like Maine, RCV would usually mean a more centrist or middle-of-the-road...