Measuring the Potential of Direct Democracy Around the World (1900-2014)

35 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2015 Last revised: 24 May 2016

See all articles by David Altman

David Altman

Pontifical Catholic University of Chile

Date Written: December 1, 2015


To what extent is direct democracy achieved in current polities? To answer this question, I develop an index, Direct Democracy Practice Potential (DDPP), which is applied to 200 polities worldwide. This index results from the aggregation of the scores of four types of mechanisms of direct democracy: popular initiatives, popular referendums, obligatory referendums, and authorities’ plebiscites. This index measures: (1) how easy it is to initiate and approve each type of popular vote and (2) how consequential that vote is (if approved). Ease of initiation is measured by: (a) the existence of a direct democracy process, (b) the number of signatures needed, and (c) time limits to collect signatures. Ease of approval is measured by quorums pertaining to: (a) participation, (b) approval, (c) supermajority, and (d) district majority. Consequences are measured by: (a) the legal status of the decision made by citizens (binding or consultative), and (b) the frequency with which direct popular votes have been used and approved in the past.

Suggested Citation

Altman, David, Measuring the Potential of Direct Democracy Around the World (1900-2014) (December 1, 2015). V-Dem Working Paper 2015:17, Available at SSRN: or

David Altman (Contact Author)

Pontifical Catholic University of Chile ( email )

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