IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

The hidden cost of direct democracy: How ballot initiatives affect politicians’ selection and incentives


  • Carlo Prato

    (Georgetown University)

  • Bruno Strulovici

    (Northwestern University)


Citizen initiatives and referendums play an important role in modern democracies, from treaty ratifications in the European Union to gay marriage in California, to the control of foreign workers in Switzerland. Departing from the classic opposition between direct and representative democracy, we study the equilibrium effects of direct democracy institutions on the incentives and selection of elected officials. We find that facilitating direct democracy induces a negative spiral on politicians’ role and contribution to society, which may dominate any direct benefit. The theory offers predictions on reelection probabilities and politicians’ performance consistent with recent evidence from the US states.

Suggested Citation

  • Carlo Prato & Bruno Strulovici, 2017. "The hidden cost of direct democracy: How ballot initiatives affect politicians’ selection and incentives," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 29(3), pages 440-466, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:jothpo:v:29:y:2017:i:3:p:440-466

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:sae:jothpo:v:29:y:2017:i:3:p:440-466. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (SAGE Publications). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.