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

See all articles by Matthew Childers

Matthew Childers

University of Georgia, Department of Political Science

Mike Binder

University of California, San Diego; Stanford University

Date Written: July 27, 2010

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Childers, Matthew and Binder, Mike, Engaged by Initiatives? How the Introduction and Use of Citizen Initiatives Increase Voter Turnout (July 27, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1465236 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1465236

Matthew Childers (Contact Author)

University of Georgia, Department of Political Science ( email )

303A Baldwin Hall
Athens, GA 30602
United States

Mike Binder

University of California, San Diego ( email )

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

HOME PAGE: http://www.mikembinder.com

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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