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initiative process, direct democracy, policy making


Citizens use the initiative process to make new laws. Many winning initiatives, however, are altered or ignored after Election Day. We examine why this is, paying particular attention to several widely-ignored properties of the post-election phase of the initiative process. One such property is the fact that initiative implementation can require numerous governmental actors to comply with an initiative’s policy instructions. Knowing such properties, the question then becomes: When do governmental actors comply with winning initiatives? We clarify when compliance is full, partial, or not at all. Our findings provide a template for scholars and observers to better distinguish cases where governmental actors' policy preferences replace initiative content as a determinant of a winning initiative's policy impact from cases where an initiative’s content affects policy despite powerful opponents’ objections. Our work implies that the consequences of this form of democracy are more predictable, but less direct, than often presumed.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Referendum, Direct democracy, Policy sciences