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APSA paper: "I Don't "No": Empirical Evidence of the Confused Voter in Initiative Elections"

Binder, Mike. "I Don't "No": Empirical Evidence of the Confused Voter in Initiative Elections"

Abstract: Confused voters vote ‘no’ on initiatives. While this is apparently common knowledge, as evidenced by its regular assertions in the literature (Hyink 1969, Magleby 1984, Bowler and Donovan 1998, Higley and McAllister 2002, Goldsmith 2004) and routine anecdotal quotes by campaign consultants (Magleby and Patterson 1998), there is scant empirical evidence of this claim and relatively flimsy theoretical explanations for this supposed phenomena (Lowenstein 1982). Though a number theories suggest how and why voters become confused, the resulting ‘no’ votes that are assumed to occur have not been empirically verified.

This paper begins to assess these claims. These initial findings suggest that the current conventional wisdom may not be wholly correct. First, if confusion is conceptualized broadly, the conventional wisdom about confused voters being more likely to vote ‘no’ on initiatives appears to be incorrect. In comparison to other levels of information and policy preferences, broadly conceived confused voters seem to respond to the choices presented to them similar to everybody else. However, certain forms of confusion, under certain circumstances can have a meaningful impact on individual decision making. Therefore, the second, and perhaps more important finding of this analysis is that confusion needs to be looked at in all of its forms. Confusion is not simply one state of mind that results in consistent outcomes. The next section discusses current theories of confusion and voting. The second section describes how these concepts are measured, followed by a description of the research design and data collection techniques. The final sections discuss the results and suggest potential avenues for future research. --
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