Direct Democracy, Indirect Results: When Does Government Limit the Impact of Voter Initiatives?

34 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2007

See all articles by Elisabeth R. Gerber

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

Arthur Lupia

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Political Science

Mathew D. McCubbins

Department of Political Science and Law School, Duke University

Abstract

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.

Keywords: initiative process, elections, direct democracy, voting, referenda, initiatives

JEL Classification: D72, D78, D82

Suggested Citation

Gerber, Elisabeth R. and Lupia, Arthur and McCubbins, Mathew D., Direct Democracy, Indirect Results: When Does Government Limit the Impact of Voter Initiatives?. The Journal of Politics, Vol. 66, No. 1, pp. 43-68, 2004. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1002821

Elisabeth R. Gerber (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy ( email )

412 Lorch Hall
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States
734-647-4004 (Phone)
734-763-9181 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.fordschool.umich.edu/people/Faculty/gerber-e.htm

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

Arthur Lupia

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Political Science ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States
734-647-7549 (Phone)
734-764-3341 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: www.umich.edu/~lupia

Mathew D. McCubbins

Department of Political Science and Law School, Duke University ( email )

210 Science Drive
Box 90362
Durham, NC 27708
United States

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