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Initiatives without Engagement: A Realistic Appraisal of Direct Democracy’s Secondary Effects, Joshua J. Dyck and Edward L. Lascher Jr.

Reviewed by Daniel Lewis

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Do ballot initiatives create better citizens? Proponents of direct democracy institutions have long argued that they not only create a more democratically responsive government and public policy but also promote civic engagement in society. Giving citizens a direct role in the legislative process should enhance individuals’ political and policy knowledge, trust in government, political efficacy, and, importantly, participation in elections. Initial empirical evaluations, exemplified by Daniel A. Smith and Caroline Tolbert’s 2004 book Educated by Initiative, tended to support these claims, showing that states with ballot initiatives had higher turnout levels in midterm elections as well as higher levels of political efficacy, trust, and political knowledge. Yet more recent empirical evaluations, including multiple articles by Joshua J. Dyck and Edward L. Lascher Jr., cast doubt on nearly all of these “secondary effects,” with the exception of an increase in voter turnout. The goal of the authors in Initiatives without Engagement is to more comprehensively assess the effects of direct democracy institutions on citizens in the United States and provide a theoretical framework to explain how initiatives may boost participation without enhancing civic engagement.

To that end, the authors first provide critiques of the &ldquo

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