Educated by Initiative

The Effects of Direct Democracy on Citizens and Political Organizations in the American States
Daniel A. Smith and Caroline J. Tolbert

An analysis of the importance of direct democracy in American political life


Educated by Initiative moves beyond previous evaluations of public policy to emphasize the educational importance of the initiative process itself. Since a majority of ballots ultimately fail or get overturned by the courts, Smith and Tolbert suggest that the educational consequences of initiative voting may be more important than the outcomes of the ballots themselves. The result is a fascinating and thoroughly-researched book about how direct democracy teaches citizens about politics, voting, civic engagement and the influence of special interests and political parties. Designed to be accessible to anyone interested in the future of American democracy, the book includes boxes (titled "What Matters") that succinctly summarize the authors' data into easily readable analyses.

Daniel A. Smith is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida.

Caroline J. Tolbert is Associate Professor of Political Science at Kent State University.

Praise / Awards

  • "Smith and Tolbert make a remarkable contribution to the literature on direct democracy, focusing on the educative rather than the instrumental effects of the initiative and referendum. As such, this book highlights the importance of direct democracy, and provides new information as well as an alternative theoretical structure to examine its role in American political life. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED."
    —John Allswang, California State University, Los Angeles
  • "The citizen initiative feels good to voters, but in Educated by Initiative, Daniel Smith and Caroline Tolbert demonstrate that it's good for our democracy, too."
    —Paul Jacobs, President Citizens in Charge
  • "Smith and Tolbert take the claims made by early American advocates of direct democracy and hold them up to the light of rigorous empirical analysis. In so doing, they weave a rich history of the Progressive era into sophisticated statistical tests that examine how citizens and political organizations respond to opportunities to participate in
    policy decisions."
    —Todd Donovan, Western Washington University
  • "Highly Recommended."
  • "The purpose of any book review is to give the reader the answer to one simple question 'is the book worth reading?' In this case, the answer is a resounding yes. Daniel Smith and Caroline Tolbert have gone past the traditional methods of analyzing direct democracy and have taken a very insightful look at citizen lawmaking in the United States."
    Political Science Quarterly, Volume 120, Number 3, 2005
  • "Smith and Tolbert have pursued a valuable area of research and have provided a solid foundation for further work. They have helped to specify and examine noninstrumental effects of direct democracy that may ultimately prove as important as any instrumental ones. For this we owe them a debt."
    —Edward L. Lascher, Jr., California State University, Sacramento

Look Inside

Copyright © 2004, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 252pp.
  • 3 drawings, 15 tables, 11 charts.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2004
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06870-8

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  • $28.95 U.S.

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