Referendums and Public Policy: Do more opportunities for direct participation affect policy outcomes?

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    Research on the effects of referendums and citizens’ initiatives in the United States and Switzerland have shown that provisions for institutions of direct democracy (referendums and initiatives) are statistically associated with lower inequality, lower budget deficits and higher levels of GDP per Capita at the state/canton level. This paper breaks new ground by replicating the American and Swiss research on nation-wide referendums in European democracies. The results differ in some respects from the Swiss and American results. While, this paper to a degree corroborates the association between equality and citizens’ initiatives, there is no evidence in support of the proposition that citizen-initiated referendums is correlated with lower public debt. And, contrary to the findings of the earlier research, the paper finds evidence that provisions for referendums lead to lower GDP per Capita. Moreover, the analysis cannot point to specific exemplars of countries that show-case the relationships. It remains difficult to point to any specific policy effect of referendums and initiatives in Europe.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)617–629
    Number of pages13
    JournalEuropean Political Science
    Issue number4
    Early online date14 Dec 2018
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


    • Public Policy
    • Referendums
    • Direct Democracy


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