Referenda on important public policy questions have come to play a central role in policy making in many states. Referenda, or ballot propositions, have resulted in limits on taxation and limits on the number of terms of elected officials, and have dealt with bilingual education, campaign finances, and affirmative action, in states all over the country.
Shaun Bowler and Todd Donovan present a searching and original examination of how voters make decisions in direct referenda. The authors ask if voters have some information about the issue easily at their disposal and if they make choices that seem sensible given their interests and the information they have. Looking at the way voters respond to different kinds of questions, the authors suggest that while direct democracy has its failings, the flaws do not necessarily lie with citizens being "duped," nor with voters approving propositions they do not want or do not understand at some basic level.
As cynicism about government has increased many have sought to take policy questions out of the hands of elected officials and put the questions directly before the voters for decision. And yet many are skeptical about the ability of voters to make intelligent decisions about complex policy issues. This important book demonstrates that voters are capable of responding thoughtfully to referenda questions.
This book will appeal to students of contemporary American politics and electoral politics.
Shaun Bowler is Associate Professor of Political Science, University of California at Irvine. Todd Donovan is Associate Professor of Political Science, Western Washington University.
If Barack Obama had not won in Iowa, most commentators believe that he would not have been able to go on to capture the Democratic nomination for president. Why Iowa? offers the definitive account of those early weeks of the campaign season: from how the Iowa caucuses work and what motivates the candidates’ campaigns, to participation and turnout, as well as the lingering effects that the campaigning had on Iowa voters. Demonstrating how “what happens in Iowa” truly reverberates throughout the country, five-time Iowa precinct caucus chair David P. Redlawsk and his coauthors take us on an inside tour of one of the most media-saturated and speculated-about campaign events in American politics.
Considering whether a sequential primary system, in which early, smaller states such as Iowa and New Hampshire have such a tremendous impact is fair or beneficial to the country as a whole, the authors here demonstrate that not only is the impact warranted, but it also reveals a great deal about informational elements of the campaigns. Contrary to conventional wisdom, this sequential system does confer huge benefits on the nominating process while Iowa’s particularly well-designed caucus system—extensively explored here for the first time—brings candidates’ arguments, strengths, and weaknesses into the open and under the media’s lens.