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Preface Contemporary scholars of politics often find direct democracy invidious and are pessimistic about prospects for voter competence in this arena. There may be good reasons for this pessimism, not the least of which are that academics know of initiatives that target minorities, while many also work in institutions that have suffered from citizen-initiated tax policies. Initiatives also limit the careers oflegislators, a vocation with which some political scientists have close working relations. That could explain why our colleagues often state emphatically that voters cannot understand what they are doing when deciding on complex issues that have far-reaching consequences. Yet it is difficult to for us, or for our colleagues, to come up with many examples of approved initiatives that participating voters really did not want, or ofsuccessful initiatives voters would otherwise reject with the benefit of hindsight. How is it then, that voters come to figure out what they are doing? This book is about voting in direct democracy. We do not attempt to provide a wide-ranging overview here---others have done so already. Readers who want more background on the process should consult Magleby 1984 and Cronin 1989. We present an analysis of how citizens might sensibly figure out what they are for or against when voting on ballot issues. Our study is motivated by some of the most enduring normative questions of politics: How democratic can a society be? Are citizens up to the task ofmaking direct decisions on policy issues? Do democratic citizens mistakenly approve things in elections that they really did not want? We approach these questions in fairly practical terms by asking if voters have minimal amounts of easily accessible information at their disposal and if they make choices that "make sense" given their interests and given the information they have. We assess these questions from several angles and find that there are numerous ways that voters get information and navigate the demanding context ofdirect democracy. Rather than positing a uniform model ofchoice that applies to all voters for all issues, we start with the assumption that different voters use different cues and information to decide on different types of issues . We also assume that a voter's cognitive abilities affect how she or he might go about reasoning on any given issue. By starting with these assumptions, we can build models that reflect how xii Preface well-educated voters think about initiatives as well as how voters with limited cognitive abilities can reason instrumentally about the choices presented to them. In the end, we present a more optimistic view of voter competence in direct democracy than have many previous studies. This does not mean that the citizen lawmaking necessarily produces good or bad outcomes. We suggest, however, that while direct democracy has its failings, the flaws do not necessarily lie with citizens being "duped," nor with voters approving things they do not want or do not understand at some basic level. Throughout this book, we look at the direct-democracy decision context as one that forces voters to make choices with limited information. This perspective is consistent with that of recent works by Ferejohn and Kuklinski (1990), Popkin (1991), Sniderman, Brody, and Tetlock (1991), and Page and Shapiro (1992), among others, and it draws from a range of voting studies. In this complex decision context, voters can be expected to use shortcuts, to be risk averse, and to respond to external cues. For some voters, existing attitudes, values, and outlooks on politics-wrapped up in their political ideology~an help them evaluate various ballot measures. A simple way for many voters to manage the information demands is to use decision shortcuts and to approach choices with a default behavior that predisposes them to simply vote no. As we see in chapter 2, a no vote need not be a reflection of blanket confusion if it is systematically associated with the uncertainty and information demands that are part of ballot proposition choices. In chapter 2, we see that the perspectives of early, prebehavioral-era critics of American state-level direct democracy were largely adopted later by behavioral -era political scientists using quantitative methods. We address this central and long-standing concern by examining microlevel behavior in directdemocracy elections. We test how voters might deal with the demands of frequent , statewide direct-democracy elections. Chapter 2 also includes a briefdiscussion of academic voting literature, with a demonstration ofhow much of the contemporary voting literature is consistent with the historical critiques of direct...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780472023349
Related ISBN
9780472087150
MARC Record
OCLC
665834046
Pages
216
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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