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The increased usage of direct democracy in recent years has generated concern over who is advantaged through the process. This essay uses survey results from interest group leaders in the states to determine what they think of the process. Although scholars have examined the perceptions of campaign professionals relative to direct democracy, scant evidence exists detailing how interest group leaders perceive the institution. The data indicates that whether groups experience the process at the macro-level (i.e., state) or at the micro-level (i.e., they have drafted a ballot measure) colors their perceptions of direct democracy. Group leaders in California are far more suspicious that it is a process dominated by wealthy interests, while leaders in states with little experience with the institution are less concerned with this criticism. Similarly, groups that have drafted ballot measures are more positive toward direct democracy than are groups that have not. Yet, direct democracy users also believe initiative campaigns are dominated by an initiative industry composed of pollsters, campaign professionals, and wealthy interests. The data suggest some ambivalence among groups over the process. This ambivalence appears to be related to the type of group being questioned as trade associations are far less sanguine regarding the benefits of direct democracy than other groups.


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18 Jul 2022
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  • Alternative title
    • Direct Democracy as a Necessary Evil?

  • Journal title
    • International Social Science Review

  • Volume
    • 90

  • Issue
    • 2

  • Date submitted

    18 July 2022

  • Keywords
  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      Dr. Robert Alexander is a professor of political science and chair of history, politics, and justice at Ohio Northern University.