Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2018

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Kenneth Bickers

Abstract

How do voters behave when faced when faced with direct democracy measures? What informational cues do voters rely on when, unlike candidate races there is no explicit labeling of an “R” or a “D” on the ballot? I used election results from the 2014 midterm and 2016 presidential elections in Colorado to determine 1) if people do indeed vote on initiatives according to their political affiliation, 2) to what degree people vote in a partisan manner, and 3) what factors within and outside of an initiative impact the partisanship of their vote. I found that, to a high degree, a person’s vote on almost all direct democracy measures largely depends on their political affiliation. This partisan loyalty was strongest during the presidential election, but only slightly less strong during midterms. Democratic and Republican activity both had a significant effect on the partisanship of voting. This effect differed depending on the party and upon the affiliation of the precinct. I also found that people seem to view direct democracy measures in general (or an affirmative vote on them) as partisan in the liberal direction. Another general trend was libertarian/anti-authoritarian sentiments, both on the right and the left. My findings suggest that people tend to view all issues through a partisan filter, and the cues informing those categorizations may be intuitive or signaled through party activity. They also suggest that direct democracy is viewed by default as a departure from the status quo, and that the states that have the most success with direct democracy will be Democratic ones or those with libertarian tendencies.

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