Coalition Building in Direct Democracy Campaigns

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Department or Administrative Unit

Political Science

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Common to many social movement studies is the argument that ideological heterogeneity causes organizational dilemmas. Yet, few scholars consider, let alone test, the impact of ideological heterogeneity on direct democracy campaigns (DDCs). Drawing from the extant social movements literature, I argue that DDCs function like short-term social movements. Based on in-depth interviews of initiative activists, and in some cases participant-observation opportunities, I conclude that ideological heterogeneity is also a contributing cause of DDC failure. Ideological heterogeneity within DDCs either results in factionalism that wastes time and resources, or the development of homogeneous groups that pursue policies unacceptable to the median voter. I also conclude that ideological heterogeneity is more destructive to DDCs than social movements. Whereas social movements can adapt over time, DDCs must achieve a singular electoral victory, within a specific electoral cycle, in order to succeed. Therefore, time constraints make factionalism more problematic for DDCs.


This article was originally published in American Politics Research. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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American Politics Research


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