THE MOSTLY-SOVEREIGN PEOPLE: Sophisticated Voting and Public Opinion About Term Limits in California

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Abstract

This study finds that citizens are capable of purposeful issue and sophisticated voting in referendum elections. These conclusions are drawn from an analysis of the 1990 vote for term limits in California. As theory suggests, the voting public in California does not live up to some idealized picture of decision makers with complete information, but rather they rely on partisan cues and their own underlying policy preferences to help decide on a voting strategy for term limits. This suggests that voters are capable of making complex and sophisticated choices about politics. If problems exist with the current system of initiative and referendum in California, the problems are not endemic but are found in the implementation of this particular version of direct democracy.

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