Direct Democracy, Indirect Results: When Does Government Limit the Impact of Voter Initiatives?
Elisabeth R. Gerber
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Political Science
Mathew D. McCubbins
University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business, Gould School of Law and the Department of Political Science
The Journal of Politics, Vol. 66, No. 1, pp. 43-68, 2004
Citizens use the initiative process to make new laws. Many winning initiatives, however, are altered or ignored after Election Day. We examine why this is, paying particular attention to several widely-ignored properties of the post-election phase of the initiative process. One such property is the fact that initiative implementation can require numerous governmental actors to comply with an initiative's policy instructions. Knowing such properties, the question then becomes: When do governmental actors comply with winning initiatives? We clarify when compliance is full, partial, or not at all. Our findings provide a template for scholars and observers to better distinguish cases where governmental actors' policy preferences replace initiative content as a determinant of a winning initiative's policy impact from cases where an initiative's content affects policy despite powerful opponents' objections. Our work implies that the consequences of this form of democracy are more predictable, but less direct, than often presumed.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 34
Keywords: initiative process, elections, direct democracy, voting, referenda, initiatives
JEL Classification: D72, D78, D82Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: July 25, 2007
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