Do direct-democratic procedures lead to higher acceptance than political representation?

Emanuel Towfigh, Sebastian Goerg, Andreas Gloeckner, Philip Leifeld, Aniol Llorente-Sauger, Sophie Bade, Carlos Kurschilgen

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Do direct-democratic decisions meet more acceptance than decisions arrived at through representative procedures? We conduct an experimental online vignette study with a German sample to investigate how voters’ acceptance of a political decision depends on the decision-making procedure. For a set of different topics, we investigate how acceptance varies depending on whether the decision is the result of a direct-democratic institution, a party in a representative democracy, or an expert committee. Our results show that for important topics, a direct-democratic decision results in higher acceptance; this finding particularly holds for those who have a different opinion than the decision outcome. However, if the topic is of limited importance to the voters, their acceptance does not differ between the mechanisms. Our results imply that a combination of representative democracy and direct democracy, conditional on the distribution of issue importance among the electorate, may be optimal with regard to acceptance of political decisions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47–65
Number of pages19
JournalPublic Choice
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2016

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