Popular attitudes Toward Direct Democracy

Shaun Bowler, Todd Donovan, Jeffrey Karp

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    Initiative and referendum use has widespread public support in many established democracies. We use data from four nations to test hypotheses about approval of direct democracy. We find that people see similar flaws in representative and direct democracy, and that their support for direct democracy is a function of how they assess the relative power of special interests in each arena. Many people believe representatives (but not voters) are influenced by interests, and these people are more likely to approve of direct democracy. Attitudes about direct democracy are also structured by opinions about voter abilities, and by preferences for a delegate model of representation. Our findings contradict the Hibbing and Theiss-Morse "stealth democracy" thesis. We contend that citizens recognize the importance of elected officials, and that they want ordinary people to vote on matters of policy. We suggest people see the voting public, participating via direct democracy, as a check on the power narrow interests have in legislative settings.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages32
    Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2003
    Event99th Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA) 2003 - Philadelphia, United States
    Duration: 28 Aug 200331 Aug 2003


    Conference99th Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA) 2003
    Country/TerritoryUnited States


    • METIS-214641


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