Primary vs General Election: Difference and Comparison

The fact that confuses most people is the terminology associated with an election. Primary and general elections are two types of elections that most people get confused about, and many people even tend to use these words interchangeably.

But the truth is that these two words are completely different from one another, and there are a lot of differences that can be listed down between these two. 

Key Takeaways

  1. A primary election is one in which voters choose the candidates representing a political party in the general election. In contrast, a general election is a final election where voters choose between the candidates nominated by each party.
  2. Primary elections narrow down the field of candidates within a political party, while general elections determine who will hold public office.
  3. Primary elections are held months before the general election and are only open to registered party members, while general elections are open to all eligible voters.

Primary vs General Election 

The primary election is the type of election that is held so that there can be competition between the main candidates before the main election is official. The general election is the type of election that is held so that a particular post in an office can be filled with the right candidate.

Primary vs General Election

A primary election, as the name itself, suggests a reference to a strategy followed in an election in which the candidates who are going to represent the party in the main elections are chosen among all the other competitors from the same party.

In most cases, there are two major types of this particular election, and these types vary from country to country. 

But on the contrary, a general election refers to the main election that is conducted to fulfil the vacancy of any post.

In this election, certain chosen candidates from various parties participate, and the people of the land choose between them the best candidate that happens to be the most suitable person for the concerned role.

This election is also known as the main election as it happens to be the one responsible for filling the post in a particular office. 

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Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonPrimary Election  General Election  
Meaning  A kind of election that is conducted so that the competition could be faced between the candidates before appearing in the main election a kind of election that is conducted so that a particular pose in a particular office could be filled with a suitable candidate 
Another name  also known as primaries Also known as the main election 
Types  in totality, there are two types of this election namely open and closed primary election this election in itself is a complete whole process and no other subsection is available 
Purpose  the purpose of this election is to minimize the competition and to find a suitable candidate that could represent the party in the main election the purpose of this election is to find a suitable candidate for a particular post 
Importance  this election takes place inside the party this election takes place between different candidates belonging to different parties 
Scope  this election happens to hold a narrower scope this election happens to hold a wider scope 

What is Primary Election? 

Originating in the United States basically, the term primary election is also termed primaries in certain parts. This happens to be an election that takes place before an actual election for any post related to any office.  

In other words, before different candidates from different parties fight with one another for any post, a primary election occurs between the party itself so that the best candidate from a party can be chosen to represent it in the main election.  

The process of this election follows the standard procedure along with the preference of people with respect to a particular candidate because, in the end, the motive is to send the best candidate in the main election.

Depending on the procedure followed this election can be categorized into two main categories, namely 

  1. Open primary election- in this election, the general public can cast its vote as to which candidate from a particular party it wishes to see in the main election. 
  2. Closed primary election- In this election, only the members belonging to a particular party are allowed to vote, and no outsider can take part. 
primary election

What is General Election? 

The term general election refers to the election that takes place in any country for any legislative body and happens to be a major election in its nature.

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Unlike the previous term, this election happens to be very crucial and cannot be avoided at any cost in any state. Talking about the nature of this election, it follows a proper schedule and is held at regular time intervals.  

This election decides the destiny of a particular post in the legislative body of any state or country as it chooses the candidate who is going to hold the position for the next four or five years.

This election is supervised by an electoral body of the state and is carried out very carefully to avoid any discrepancies and to maintain total transparency and partiality throughout the process. 

In this election, the general public takes part and chooses who is going to be the suitable candidate for any post in any governmental office.

Looking from the perspective of competition, this election is contested between different candidates belonging to different parties, and only a few are chosen to represent their parties in their respective offices. 

general election

Main Differences Between Primary and General Election 

  1. A primary election is also called primaries, while a general election is also known as the main election. 
  2. While the primary election takes place inside one political party or affiliation, the general election takes place between different competitors belonging to different parties. 
  3. A primary election can be categorized into two types, namely open and closed elections, but the general election carries no definite types. 
  4. A primary election carries a narrower scope as compared to a general election. 
  5. A primary election happens because the party wants the best candidate to represent it in the main election, but the general election takes place because a particular post belonging to a particular office needs to be filled with a suitable candidate. 
Difference Between Primary and General Election
References
  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261379407000479  
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.3162/036298007X201994  

Last Updated : 18 August, 2023

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