Direct Democracy, Representation, and Policy Congruence
36 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2013 Last revised: 27 Sep 2013
Date Written: September 2013
The translation of voters’ preferences into policies is a key requirement of democratic governance. The representation literature argues that “good” representation (i.e., a small preference gap between the electorate and the political elite) is the key factor to get policy congruence, while the literature on direct democracy shows that initiatives and referendums are effective instruments for voters to get the policies they want. We provide a formal analysis that links the direct democratic mechanism to the representation argument, showing that a large preference gap between the electorate and the political elite (i.e., “bad” representation) makes the positive effect of direct democracy on policy congruence stronger, which means that this interaction effect works in the opposite direction of the representation argument. The empirical analysis of original Swiss data with advanced hierarchical models and post-stratification supports the prediction of the formal model. Our findings show that the representative and the direct democratic model of democracy achieve policy congruence in fundamentally distinct ways that are not complementary.
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