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If I'll win it, I want it: The role of instrumental considerations in explaining public support for referendums

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Across established democracies, citizens express high levels of support for decision making via referendums. What drives these preferences remains yet unclear. In this article it is argued that, first, process preferences are less stable than previously assumed but vary substantially across policy proposals. Second, it is suggested that instrumental considerations play an important role in shaping citizens' preferences for referendums. Specifically, citizens who favour the policy proposal or believe that they hold a majority opinion are expected to express more support for the use of referendums. An original survey was designed and conducted in the Netherlands (N = 1,289) that contains both between and within respondent variation across a range of policy proposals. The findings support these arguments: Both the desire for a specific policy change and the perception of being in the majority with one's policy preference relate to support for the use of referendums across policy proposals, levels of governance, and between and within respondents. This study contributes to a better understanding of process preferences by showing that these preferences have a non-stable component and that instrumental considerations play an important role in citizens' support for referendums.
Journal: European Journal of Political Research
ISSN: 0304-4130
Issue: 2
Volume: 59
Pages: 312 - 330
Publication year:2019
BOF-publication weight:6
CSS-citation score:3
Authors from:Higher Education