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Kim Fridkin, Patrick Kenney, and Sarah Gershon, "Comparing the views of superdelegates and Democratic voters in the 2008 Democratic nomination campaign," Party Politics, 18 (September 2012), 749-770. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol18/issue5/ ]

First paragraph:
On 3 June 2008 the final primaries for the Democratic nomination took place in Montana and South Dakota, United States (US). Emblematic of this historic campaign, Senator Obama won Montana and Senator Clinton won South Dakota. Over 30 million people had voted in caucuses and primaries between 3 January 2008 and 3 June 2008. Yet both candidates were several hundred votes short of the 2,118 needed to win the nomination. The remedy was provided by the Democratic superdelegates. These unpledged political elites were free to support who they wanted. They fell disproportionately for Senator Obama, establishing him as the Democratic nominee for president. In this paper we explore the attitudes and beliefs of both the superdelegates and Democratic partisans during the summer of 2008. This is the first study of the superdelegates and citizens at the culmination of a campaign. What did Democratic partisans think about the superdelegates' decisions? What role do citizens believe superdelegates played in the process? Who do they think the superdelegates represented during the nomination campaign? Do rank-and-file Democrats believe the current nomination process is democratic? With regard to superdelegates, who do superdelegates think they represent? How do they see their roles in the nomination process? Surprisingly, we do not know the answers to these questions. In this paper, we move to fill this void with a unique dataset that was assembled in order to capture the thoughts and attitudes of political elites and citizens as the first African American candidate became the nominee of one of the two major parties in the United States.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Comparison of Demographic profiles of three samples
Table 2. An examination of the role of superdelegates in the nomination campaign
Table 3. Representation by superdelelgates in the nomination campaign
Figure 1. Changing the nomination system:
Figure 2. Democratic nature of current nominating system Exact question wording:
Figure 3. When did superdelegates decide who to support?
Table 4. An examination of the criteria superdelegates and democratic voters employ when selecting a nominatee1
Figure 4. Candidate preferences among democratic voters and superdelegates

Last Paragraph:
We have presented a significant amount of data demonstrating that most Democratic partisans would be pleased with these changes, while most superdelegates would not. The process of the 2008 Democratic nomination raised questions among citizens about the democratic nature of the nomination process, highlighting the difficulty of sustaining a nominating system that provides significant power to elites late in the process. The election of 2012 will be 40 years since the 1972 nomination campaign which ushered in the expanded role for the party rank-and-file. The changes of 1972 were consistent with the arc of history in the United States; a slow, but steady, march toward the democratization of elections over 200 years, including the expansion of the franchise, forging elements of direct democracy, and reducing the role of party organizations in selecting candidates.

Last updated August 2012