The hidden cost of direct democracy: How ballot initiatives affect politicians’ selection and incentives

Carlo Prato*, Bruno Strulovici

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Citizen initiatives and referendums play an important role in modern democracies, from treaty ratifications in the European Union to gay marriage in California, to the control of foreign workers in Switzerland. Departing from the classic opposition between direct and representative democracy, we study the equilibrium effects of direct democracy institutions on the incentives and selection of elected officials. We find that facilitating direct democracy induces a negative spiral on politicians’ role and contribution to society, which may dominate any direct benefit. The theory offers predictions on reelection probabilities and politicians’ performance consistent with recent evidence from the US states.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)440-466
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Theoretical Politics
Volume29
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017

Keywords

  • Direct democracy
  • initiatives
  • political agency
  • referendum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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