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Taking cues from the government: heuristic versus systematic processing in a constitutional referendum


De Angelis, Andrea; Colombo, Céline; Morisi, Davide (2020). Taking cues from the government: heuristic versus systematic processing in a constitutional referendum. West European Politics, 43(4):845-868.

Abstract

One of the main criticisms of direct democracy is that it places excessive demands on voters. Are citizens competent enough to vote directly on policy issues? When stakes are high, do citizens mainly follow elites’ signals or do they decide in line with their issue preferences? This article addresses these questions in a multi-method setting by combining observational and experimental data from an original three-wave panel survey conducted during the 2016 Italian constitutional referendum. In particular, Finite Mixture Models are employed to model voters’ heterogeneous strategies of information processing. Findings show that heuristic voting based on government evaluation prevails over policy-related voting. More specifically, less politically sophisticated and partisan voters relied on government assessment as a heuristic, while sophisticated and independent voters based their decisions mostly on their assessment of the reform. Implications for the question of citizens’ competence in direct democracy are discussed.

Abstract

One of the main criticisms of direct democracy is that it places excessive demands on voters. Are citizens competent enough to vote directly on policy issues? When stakes are high, do citizens mainly follow elites’ signals or do they decide in line with their issue preferences? This article addresses these questions in a multi-method setting by combining observational and experimental data from an original three-wave panel survey conducted during the 2016 Italian constitutional referendum. In particular, Finite Mixture Models are employed to model voters’ heterogeneous strategies of information processing. Findings show that heuristic voting based on government evaluation prevails over policy-related voting. More specifically, less politically sophisticated and partisan voters relied on government assessment as a heuristic, while sophisticated and independent voters based their decisions mostly on their assessment of the reform. Implications for the question of citizens’ competence in direct democracy are discussed.

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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
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Political Science and International Relations
Uncontrolled Keywords:political science, international relations, political psychology, referendum voting, dual process theory, finite mixture models, survey experiment
Language:English
Date:May 2020
Deposited On:14 Oct 2021 14:55
Last Modified:18 Mar 2024 04:44
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:0140-2382
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/01402382.2019.1633836