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Justifications and citizen competence in direct democracy: a multilevel analysis


Colombo, Céline (2018). Justifications and citizen competence in direct democracy: a multilevel analysis. British Journal of Political Science, 48(3):787-806.

Abstract

The criticism that ordinary voters lack the necessary competence to make policy decisions persists despite the growth, popularity and implementation of direct democratic instruments throughout the democratic world. This article presents a novel measure of voters’ levels of justification as a possible, policy-specific, conceptualization of citizen competence in direct democracy. Using a unique dataset based on thirty-four ballot decisions in Switzerland, the study analyses the levels and correlates of citizen competence. The main findings are, first, that most voters do understand arguments about policies. Secondly, the political context as well as individual resources are important in determining voters’ competence. Finally, with regard to individual resources, motivation is strongly associated with justification levels, while the effect of ability is smaller than expected.

Abstract

The criticism that ordinary voters lack the necessary competence to make policy decisions persists despite the growth, popularity and implementation of direct democratic instruments throughout the democratic world. This article presents a novel measure of voters’ levels of justification as a possible, policy-specific, conceptualization of citizen competence in direct democracy. Using a unique dataset based on thirty-four ballot decisions in Switzerland, the study analyses the levels and correlates of citizen competence. The main findings are, first, that most voters do understand arguments about policies. Secondly, the political context as well as individual resources are important in determining voters’ competence. Finally, with regard to individual resources, motivation is strongly associated with justification levels, while the effect of ability is smaller than expected.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Political Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:320 Political science
Uncontrolled Keywords:sociology and political science
Language:English
Date:July 2018
Deposited On:28 Nov 2018 16:41
Last Modified:07 Apr 2020 07:13
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN:0007-1234
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1017/s0007123416000090

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