Ballot measures offer voters the opportunity to shape policy decisions directly. It remains unclear, however, if direct democracy asks too much of voters. Do voters have the capacity to make informed decisions on ballot measures that have important and far-reaching policy consequences? The common wisdom in the academic literature is that voters routinely use endorsements from elite cue-givers—such as prominent political figures, interest groups, and political parties—to arrive at an informed decision despite their lack of specific knowledge about the measures under consideration. We examine the degree to which this description is accurate in the case of direct democracy by surveying individuals about three ballot measures in North Carolina and California during their respective 2012 presidential primaries. The three ballot measures covered subjects that voters consider frequently in many states: same-sex marriage, term limits, and taxation. We find that, contrary to the common wisdom, the ways in which individuals use endorsements to inform their decisions, while efficacious for some individuals, is highly conditional. In our surveys, campaign endorsements were informative to voters less than half of the time, but they can be quite effective for some subsets of the electorate. Our findings raise important questions about how voters evaluate ballot measures and whether voters can make competent policy choices via the initiative and referendum.
Case Comment: Bhogaita v. Altamonte
EVERY DOG CAN HAVE HIS DAY IN COURT: THE USE OF ANIMALS AS DEMONSTRATIVE EXHIBITS Kyle R. Kroll, Volume 100, Online Managing Editor In Bhogaita v. Altamonte, the Eleventh Circuit recently decided whether to allow a dog in the courtroom as a demonstrative exhibit. Although the case presented many serious [...]
Revisiting Water Bankruptcy
REVISITING WATER BANKRUPTCY IN CALIFORNIA’S FOURTH YEAR OF DROUGHT Olivia Moe, Volume 100, Managing Editor This spring, as “extreme” to “exceptional” drought stretched across most of California—indicating that a four-year streak of drought was not about to resolve itself—Governor Jerry Brown issued an unprecedented order to reduce potable urban water [...]
Defying Auer Deference
DEFYING AUER DEFERENCE: SKIDMORE AS A SOLUTION TO CONSERVATIVE CONCERNS IN PEREZ v. MORTGAGE BANKERS ASSOCIATION Nicholas R. Bednar, Volume 100, Lead Articles Editor* On March 9, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its decision in Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association. The Court overturned the D.C. [...]