Journal Article

Political Engagement, Mobilization, and Direct Democracy

Todd Donovan, Caroline J. Tolbert and Daniel A. Smith

in Public Opinion Quarterly

Published on behalf of American Association for Public Opinion Research

Volume 73, issue 1, pages 98-118
Published in print January 2009 | ISSN: 0033-362X
Published online April 2009 | e-ISSN: 1537-5331 | DOI:
Political Engagement, Mobilization, and Direct Democracy

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Research has found that states using initiatives and referendums have higher turnout, particularly in midterm elections. Existing research has not examined who is mobilized to vote when issues appear on statewide ballots. Building on work by Campbell (1966. “Surge and Decline: A Study of Electoral Change.” In Elections and the Political Order, eds. A. Campbell, P. E. Converse, W. E. Miller, and D. E. Stokes. New York: Wiley), we test whether ballot measures engage and mobilize people who do not fit the profile of regular voters. Using national opinion data from the 2004 and 2006 elections, we find that independents (relative to partisans) exhibited greater awareness of and interest in ballot measures in the midterm election. This pattern is not found in the presidential election, where peripheral voters are likely to be mobilized by the stimulus of the presidential race rather than by ballot measures. Absent salient ballot measures, some episodic independent voters may not be engaged by midterm elections. This suggests that some variation in midterm turnout maybe a function of peripheral voters becoming engaged by ballot measures.

Journal Article.  7878 words. 

Subjects: Social Sciences

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