Ph.D. Spotlight: The Determinants of Vote Choice in Ballot Measure Elections

What types of informational cues do voters rely on when forming opinions? When does it matter for ballot measures? Is newspaper coverage biased in ballot endorsement elections? What types of bias do newspapers engage in? Does the bias of newspaper coverage in ballot elections affect the outcome of ballot measure elections?

With an election just on the horizon, the time is ripe to discuss the role of direct democracy in the United States. In this dissertation, Dr. Uttermark examines different facets of direct democracy in three parts: paper 1 tackles what sort of information matters to voters, and when it matters in evaluating ballot measures. Paper 2 analyzes how newspapers cover ballot measures and how coverage influences voters. Lastly, paper 3 is an analysis of ballot measures and decentralization.

Using a panel experiment, in paper 1, Dr. Uttermark’s findings show that partisan cues are shown to trump policy cues when the information is equally recent. However, when policy information is more recent, it has the potential to trump partisan cues. By including timing as well as examining both partisan cues and policy cues, Dr. Uttermark constructs a more nuanced picture of the way voters make decisions. In paper 2, Dr. Uttermark analyzes the content of 36 different newspapers and finds that newspapers are biased both in selection and presentation of elections. Newspapers will often dedicate more coverage to one side of a ballot, as well as present one side of the ballot more favorably, as well. Lastly, in paper 3, Dr. Uttermark finds evidence that citizen-proposed ballot measures are decentralizing in nature and that centralization is negatively associated with probability of passage. Taken together, findings indicate that there are different factors at play that effect the role of direct democracy within the United States.

Dr. Uttermark is a Post-Doctoral Associate in the Political Science department at Florida State University. This post is based on Dr. Uttermark’s dissertation abstract. You can learn more about this project on DigiNole. You can learn more about Dr. Uttermark on his website.

The feature image is from Pexels.

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