Confusion or Competence?: Ballot Initiative Politics and Voting Behavior in the American States

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


The Ohio State University

Research Projects

Organizational Units

Journal Issue


The proliferation of ballot initiatives, referendums and voter-approved constitutional amendments in American states has significantly impacted policy and the conduct of campaigns and elections. My thesis seeks to create a more complete theory of voters' engagement with these elections than exists in the literature. In particular, I am concerned with the interactions among ballot issues, campaigns, and voters' preferences. I evaluate competing theories of voting behavior in ballot issue elections and propose modifications. In particular, I focus on developing a theory of how voters acquire and process information about ballot issues in order to make reasoned vote choices. Three empirical studies supplement my theoretical analysis of voting behavior. I study how opinion changes in high-salience initiative campaigns, how voters respond to low-information situations, and how initiative campaigns affect standing preferences. On balance, I find that voters generally seek out information in an effort to make reasoned choices, but that they are highly susceptible to deceptive cues, meaning that concerns about the democratic performance of ballot issue elections are often valid.



ballot initiatives, voting behavior, state politics, voter confusion, public opinion