Dissociated Choices in Direct Democracy: Preferences, Policy Responsivenss and Trust in Ballot Initiative Elections
Gimpel, James G.
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This research begins with a simple question: do direct democratic voting systems fulfill their promise of generating more majoritarian policy outcomes? I present a new theory - Dissociated Choice Theory - to examine the way in which democratic institutions, like the citizen initiative, alter the choice set, and therefore alter the expressed preferences of voters. I find evidence of contradictory choice sets among voters about tax and spend policies, and that direct democratic voting systems are likely to induce unconstrained preferences; what I term dissociated choices. I examine the implications of dissociated choices using aggregate state-level data, and both national and state-level survey data. The evidence suggests that direct democratic voting systems are inferior to representative democratic voting systems at delivering policy outcomes that coincide with majority preferences. These outcomes are responsible for declining trust in government, which paradoxically reinforces public support for an institution that produces less optimal policies.