October 02, 2008

"Delegating Direct Democracy: Interparty Legislative Competition and the Adoption of the Initiative in the American States"

Dan Smith and Dustin Fridkin have written this article for the American Political Science Review. Here is the abstract:

    Between 1898 and 1918, voters in 20 American states adopted constitutional amendments granting citizens the power of the initiative. The embrace of direct democracy by voters invites inquiry into why some state legislatures opted to delegate to citizens the power of the initiative, while others did not. Drawing on an original data set, this article uses Event History Analysis hazard models to explain the puzzle of why legislatures might devolve institutional power to citizens. Our longitudinal, macrolevel analysis of socioeconomic and political forces reveals that political considerations--interparty legislative competition, party organizational strength, and third parties--are the most powerful predictors of a legislature's decision to refer the initiative to the ballot. Although several of our findings comport with the conventional wisdom explaining the adoption of the initiative during the Progressive Era, others are surprising, offering us new theoretical insights into why and when legislative bodies might be willing to divest themselves of their institutional power.

Posted by Rick Hasen at October 2, 2008 08:00 AM