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We examine group mobilization in direct democracy elections by assessing the conditions under which interests will actively support or oppose ballot measures. Motivating our analysis is that the decision to mobilize is driven by the costs and benefits of group participation, a calculus shaped by issue characteristics, state political institutions, and the electoral context. Using data from initiative and referendum measures appearing on statewide ballots from 2003 to 2008, we find that ballot measures involving social and tax issues are likely to produce competition among groups and increase the overall number of groups involved. In addition, we find that group competition and levels of mobilization increased in response to how difficult it would be for the legislature to undo the change brought about from passage of a ballot measure. Lastly, group competition and levels of mobilization increased for ballot measures appearing in nonpresidential election years and for ballot measures featuring a close election. Taken together, our results suggest that groups engage strategically in direct democracy elections to pursue a mix of policy and political goals.
Using research on the initiative as a point of comparison, we consider how frequently and for what ends state legislators use the referendum. Akin to initiative use, we find that legislators are constrained by procedural hurdles in their ability to place referendums on the ballot. However, in contrast to research on the initiative, which emphasizes the role of interest groups as the drivers of initiatives, our analysis suggests that referendum use is motivated by partisan legislative majorities seeking to achieve a mix of political and policy goals.
Elections send ambiguous signals to the political system, particularly when interpreting the meaning of various “nonvotes” (e.g., abstention, ballot spoiling, and roll-off). While a “none of the above” (NOTA) option may allow voters to better signal discontent, how NOTA voting is used is not well understood. The authors’ analysis of all races in Nevada, which has allowed for NOTA voting since 1976, suggests that NOTA voting is consistent with protest voting and limited information. Thus, while NOTA voting can be a less ambiguous signal of discontent than other nonvotes, the practice of NOTA voting is less clear.
Cooperative Extension is a partnership funded by federal, state, and county governments that extends University of Nevada services to Nevadans. As the original branch of Nevada’s land-grant institution, the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) has administered Cooperative Extension Service (CES) since the program’s inception over a century ago. However, as currently organized, CES has limited presence in Southern Nevada and it has not developed programming commensurate with Clark County’s tax contribution to the CES budget. We propose that CES in Southern Nevada be managed by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). As we show, UNLV is already the most connected and active non-profit organization in the region. The campus currently delivers a host of services and programs that are consistent with CES’s mission, despite receiving no direct funding to support these activities.
Heading into the 2016 presidential election, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton had multiple paths to secure the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency. In contrast, Republican nominee Donald Trump’s path to the White House necessitated winning a number of large swing states and securing victories in states that had been reliably Democratic. Building from a prior Brookings Mountain West brief (Damore and Lang 2016), we consider how the Trump campaign, despite being vastly outspent, was able to use targeted online messages to activate “white identify politics”—long a staple of Republican politics in the South— in the non-metro areas of the upper Midwest. This messaging, coupled with Hillary Clinton’s unpopularity among white working class and rural voters in the region, interacted with the winner-take-all allocation of Electoral College votes to deliver the presidency for Trump. In the brief’s conclusion, we consider the implications that the 2016 election has for Electoral College politics moving forward.
In the aftermath of the 2012 presidential election, a good deal of commentary held that President Obama’s reelection resulted from the country’s changing demography and his overwhelming support among nonwhite voters residing in the country’s urban spaces. Less discussed was the fact that Republican Mitt Romney also carried many urbanized states with ethnically and racially diverse populations and that President Obama would not have been reelected without securing the Electoral Votes of a number of rural states with large white populations. In this paper, we argue that the combination of educated populations and a socio-cultural construct we call northernness allow us to differentiate which urban and diverse states and which white and rural states are Democratic and Republican voting in contemporary presidential elections.