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Alan Renwick

In: The SAGE Handbook of Electoral Behaviour

Chapter 19: Referendums

Subject: Voting Behavior

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Alan Renwick

When we think of elections – and, by extension, of electoral behaviour – we tend to think of votes to choose representatives. But elections can involve other sorts of choices too. In fact, contemporary politics involves two important classes of public election: representative elections on the one hand and policy elections – votes to choose specific policies – on the other. In order to avoid confusion, we typically refer to the second class of elections as referendums.

Thus, a referendum is a public vote on a specific policy question. As the first section of this chapter will show, such votes have become an increasingly frequent feature of politics in recent decades, raising important questions about their contributions to ...

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