Engaged by the Proposition: How the Use of Ballot Propositions Increase Voter Turnout
37 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2010 Last revised: 31 Mar 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. Additionally, this literature has ignored the role of legislative and popular referenda in affecting voter’s decisions to turn out to vote. Using data from 1870 to 2008, we show that ballot propositions-both initiative and referenda, can indeed increase voter turnout. By using competitiveness as a proxy, we argue that mobilization is the mechanism through which direct democracy increases turnout. Our research is a step forward for this field because we analyze referenda, use historical data and employ a differences-in- differences estimation. This research design allows us to draw proper causal inferences because we measure turnout before and after the adoption of citizen initiative and referenda processes.
Keywords: Direct Democracy, Initiatives, Referenda, Voter Turnout
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