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Sex and the Ballot Box: Perception of Ballot Measures Regarding Same-Sex Marriage and Abortion in California

Craig M. Burnett

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Wilmington

Mathew D. McCubbins

Duke University

July 17, 2012

States with direct democracy routinely ask voters to modify their states’ laws and constitutions and to authorize the raising of billions of dollars in bonds and taxes. In recent elections, voters in many American states have also voted on important social policies that redefine civil liberties within their state. Do voters know enough about these social policies to make an informed decision? The common wisdom is that when choosing between candidates, voters rely on information shortcuts in lieu of extensive knowledge about the issues. Unlike candidate elections, however, ballot measures lack some useful information shortcuts such as party identification. Using data from an election survey, we test the hypothesis that voters use shortcuts to make reasoned decisions on two ballot measures central to today’s policy debates: California’s Proposition 4 (2008) on parental notification for abortion and Proposition 8 (2008) on same-sex marriage. We show that voters do not use cues universally, and furthermore, the amount of factual information a voter possesses has almost no effect on her decisions.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 37

Keywords: Direct Democracy, Constitutional Initiatives, Voting, Proposition 8

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Date posted: July 14, 2011 ; Last revised: July 18, 2012

Suggested Citation

Burnett, Craig M. and McCubbins, Mathew D., Sex and the Ballot Box: Perception of Ballot Measures Regarding Same-Sex Marriage and Abortion in California (July 17, 2012). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1884579 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1884579

Contact Information

Craig M. Burnett (Contact Author)
University of North Carolina (UNC) at Wilmington ( email )
601 South College Road
Wilmington, NC 28403
United States
910-962-2161 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://people.uncw.edu/burnettc/
Mathew D. McCubbins
Duke University ( email )
Department of Political Science
208 Gross Hall, 140 Science Drive
Durham, NC 277080204
United States
(213) 973-7538 (Phone)
(213) 973-3623 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://mccubbins.us
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