The study of voting behaviour remains a vibrant sub-discipline of political science. The Handbook of Electoral Behaviour is an authoritative and wide ranging survey of this dynamic field, drawing together a team of the world's leading scholars to provide a state-of-the-art review that sets the agenda for future study. Taking an interdisciplinary approach and focusing on a range of countries, the handbook is composed of eight parts. The first five cover the principal theoretical paradigms, establishing the state of the art in their conceptualisation and application, and followed by chapters on their specific challenges and innovative applications in contemporary voting studies. The remaining three parts explore elements of the voting process to understand their different effects on vote outcomes. The SAGE Handbook of Electoral Behaviour is an essential benchmark publication for advanced students, researchers and practitioners in the fields of politics, sociology, psychology and research methods.


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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