TITLE: The Role of Direct Democracy in California Governance: Public Opinion on Making Policy at the Ballot Box

AUTHORS: Mark Baldassare and Cheryl Katz

PAGES: 25      DATE: May 2007

ABSTRACT: California, a national leader in the use of the citizens’ initiative process since voters passed the Proposition 13 property tax limitations in 1978, has reached new levels of making public policy through the ballot box during the current decade. In a series of Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) Statewide Surveys, we examine trends in attitudes about citizens’ initiatives during this period of unprecedented use. Large and increasing majorities of California voters favor having the initiative provision and believe that public policy decisions made by voters through the initiative process are better than those made by elected officials. After the November 2006 election, large majorities of voters expressed satisfaction with the way the state’s initiative provision was working, yet most also said the process was in need of changes. In multivariate analyses, confidence in voters’ ability to make good policy at the ballot box, concerns about the influence of special interest groups on state governments, and approval for Gov. Schwarzenegger’s job performance are significant predictors of both satisfaction with the initiative process and the perception that changes are needed. Many voters express concerns about the role of special interests in California ballot measures and support reforms of the initiative process.

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