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Determinants of Vote Choice in Ballot Measure Elections

Title: The Determinants of Vote Choice in Ballot Measure Elections.
Name(s): Uttermark, Matthew Joseph, author
Weissert, Carol S., professor directing dissertation
Herrington, Carolyn D., university representative
Barrilleaux, Charles, committee member
Pietryka, Matthew T., committee member
Florida State University, degree granting institution
College Ofsocial Sciences and Public Policy, degree granting college
Department of Political Science, degree granting department
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Doctoral Thesis
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2019
Publisher: Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource (152 pages)
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: This dissertation consists of three essays examining the role of direct democracy in the American states. The papers broadly examine how actors in the direct democracy process decide to support ballot measures. Paper one is a panel experiment, conducted on the 2016 CCES. It explores what information matters to voters and when it matters in evaluating ballot measures. Paper two is an analysis of how newspapers cover ballot measures and how coverage influences voters. Paper three is an analysis of ballot measures and decentralization – exploring when and how decentralization influences citizen ballot measure support. Below I include brief abstracts of each. When and what types of informational cues do voters rely on when forming opinions? Previous tests on the influence of cues have used static, single time-frame designs and highlight the strength of partisan cues. In essay one, I make two contributions to that literature. It examines both partisan cues and policy information and does so over time. Using a panel experiment, I find that partisan cues trump policy cues when both are equally recent. However, policy information is capable of trumping party cues when policy information is more recent. These findings provide evidence that static experimental designs fail to capture the nuances of opinion formation that emerge from a more dynamic approach and that the type of cue leads to different effects at different times. Newspapers play a critical role in democracy–providing one of the few substantive and trustworthy sources of information for voters. Previous research has found that newspaper coverage of partisan elections is biased in the direction of the editorial board's endorsement. I extend this research to ballot measures. Newspapers may engage in selection bias, dedicating more space to discussing one side of a ballot measure than alternative voting options, or presentation bias, presenting one side of a ballot measure campaign more favorably than alternative voting options. In essay two, I answer these questions: First, is newspaper coverage biased in ballot endorsement elections? Second, what types of bias do papers engage in? Finally, does the bias of newspaper coverage in ballot elections affect the outcome of ballot measure elections? I collect a sample of 36 initiative elections across five media markets to evaluate coverage. Using this data, I perform a content analysis examining how newspapers cover ballot initiative elections. I find that newspaper engage in both selection and presentation bias. Additionally, while the tone of coverage is not directly associated with support for initiative measures, positive press coverage does decrease the relative impact of a newspaper's editorial endorsement. For decades, scholars of American and comparative federalism have found evidence of centralizing behavior in political institutions. The study of devolution has been relegated to specific policies (e.g. welfare reform) or dismissed as rhetorical bluster. In essay three, I argue that scholars of centralization have overlooked a potential institution of devolution – state ballot measures. I analyze a novel dataset of ballot measures in the U.S. states coded to reflect devolutionary impact. I find evidence that citizen-proposed ballot measures are decentralizing in nature and that centralization – regardless of proposing actor – is negatively associated with probability of passage.
Identifier: 2019_Summer_Uttermark_fsu_0071E_15314 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Political Science in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Degree Awarded: Summer Semester 2019.
Date of Defense: June 14, 2019.
Keywords: Ballot Measure, Decentralization, Direct Democracy, Federalism
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory Committee: Carol S. Weissert, Professor Directing Dissertation; Carolyn D. Herrington, University Representative; Charles Barrilleaux, Committee Member; Matthew T. Pietryka, Committee Member.
Subject(s): Political science
Persistent Link to This Record:
Host Institution: FSU

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Uttermark, M. J. (2019). The Determinants of Vote Choice in Ballot Measure Elections. Retrieved from