Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 3 > Issue 4

Issue Unbundling via Citizens' Initiatives

Timothy Besley, Department of Economics, London School of Economics, UK, t.besley@lse.ac.uk , Stephen Coate, Department of Economics, Cornell University, sc163@cornell.edu
Suggested Citation
Timothy Besley and Stephen Coate (2008), "Issue Unbundling via Citizens' Initiatives", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 3: No. 4, pp 379-397. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00008059

Publication Date: 31 Dec 2008
© 2008 T. Besley and S. Coate
Voting theory,  Democracy,  Formal modelling,  Interest groups


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In this article:
The Model 
Sources of Noncongruence Under Electoral Competition 
The Impact of Citizens' Initiatives 


The role of citizens' initiatives figures prominently in contemporary debates on constitutional change. It is widely believed that permitting initiatives should improve the congruence between citizen preferences and policy outcomes across the spectrum of issues on which initiatives may be placed. This paper investigates the theoretical basis for this view. It begins by identifying three basic reasons why electoral competition may not, by itself, be sufficient to ensure congruence on specific issues. Each reason relies critically on the fact that citizens have only one vote to cast for candidates who have responsibility for choosing a bundle of issues. It then shows how allowing initiatives permits the unbundling of specific issues which improves congruence when the three reasons apply. Important caveats to this logic are also presented.