Ballot initiatives offer voters the chance to directly determine the outcome of state policy change. Do Americans who vote on initiatives grow in political efficacy and participate more in the future? Or is the initiative process ultimately undemocratic in the sense that those who participate grow less interested in participating over time? Ultimately, are there spillover effects of direct democracy?
and Edward Lascher
take on these questions in Initiatives without Engagement: A Realistic Appraisal of Direct Democracy’s Secondary Effects
(University of Michigan Press 2019). Dyck is Associate Professor of Political Science and Co-Director of the Center for Public Opinion at the University of Massachusetts Lowell; Lascher, Jr is Professor of Public Policy and Administration at California State University, Sacramento.
Initiatives without Engagement
challenges what democratic reformers have thought about the initiative process since the Progressive Era. The findings suggest that ballot initiatives lead to higher voter turnout but not to higher political interest. There is also a partisan dimension to the findings. Independents are the least mobilized by ballot initiatives, while Republicans and Democrats are more likely to register to vote, possibly explained by the incentives of ideological political entrepreneurs who sponsor initiatives.