Engaged by Initiatives? How the Introduction and Use of Citizen Initiatives Increase Voter Turnout
43 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2009 Last revised: 28 Jul 2010
Date Written: July 27, 2010
Research has suggested that states with citizen initiatives have higher turnout rates than states without them; however, these studies were conducted by analyzing elections decades after states have adopted and started using initiatives. Using data from 1870 to 2008, we attempt to resolve competing claims about the nature of how citizen initiatives affect turnout in the American states. We provide evidence that mobilization is the mechanism through which direct democracy increases turnout. Contrary to previous research, we show that the adoption of the initiative and past usage of the process does not lead to higher turnout in a given election. Citizen initiative campaigns mobilize the electorate in current elections and the number of competitive initiative elections has a greater effect on turnout than uncompetitive races.
Keywords: Direct Democracy, Citizen Initiatives, Turnout, Elections, Political Participation, Electoral Institutions
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