Jamie Sword
Mind Map by Jamie Sword, updated more than 1 year ago
Jamie Sword
Created by Jamie Sword almost 5 years ago


AS Level Govt. and Politics by Jamie Sword. All you need to know about referendums.

Resource summary

1 What is a Referendum?
1.1 A referendum is a vote in which the electorate can express a view on a specific issue of pubic policy
1.2 It is a way of exercising direct democracy within a system of representative democracy
1.3 Referendums tend to be 'top down', the legislature decides on the issue, date and the question
1.3.1 Another form of direct democracy is an initiative, these are inspired more by 'grass roots' in which a person or a group may propose legislation by securing the signatures of a required number of voters, which must then be put to the electorate- e.g. marijuana in Colorado and Washington
2 Examples:
3.1 Increase political participation in decision making- could rejuvenate a system which appears to have lost the confidence of its citizens. Scot 85%
3.2 Overcome flaws in the mandate theory-corrects assumption that voters agree with all a party's policies. Situations can arise where a significant policy change is needed e.g. Iraq- 2003, 2 years after 2001 election, no one saw it coming- such decisions can therefore gain legitimacy.
3.3 An educational device- allow an area of policy to be debated and discussed, opening significant viewpoints to consider. #Indyref was everywhere, NE Assembly was rigorously debated in local press. These people are perfectly capable of making an adequate decision.
3.4 Legitimize significant constitutional changes and act as a weapon of entrenchment for these changes as they can only be overturned by extraordinary process as it is the will of the people.
3.5 Can settle an issue, for example the 1975 election on the EC, and can fix divides in parties such as Wilson's Labour in the same year.
3.6 Initiatives can protect individual's rights. E.g. California's Prop 13, capped Property Taxes and required 2/3 vote in state legislature to raise taxes
3.7 Referendums are popular with voters, economic model of democracy would suggest they are beneficial. Referendums on big constitutional changes produce high turnouts e.g. Indyref
4.1 Undermines Representative Democracy- Thatcher thought it would 'bind and fetter Parliamentary Sovereignty'
4.2 Elitist Critique- electorate less informed than professional politicians. Dangerous if let loose on issues such as race, e.g. Switzerland minarets. Incompatible with Burkean model of representation. Yes and No doesn't necessarily answer a complex issue.
4.3 Tend not to be about the issue in question, e.g. Indyref 'vote yes to end privatisation of NHS Scotland' despite fully devolved powers on health already existing
4.4 Referendums can be used as a tactical device, referendums will only happen when the Govt. of the day thinks they are going to win. Furthermore, only reason for AV referendum was to tempt the Lib Dems into coalition with the Tories. 2017 just to satisfy the Tory right.
4.5 Governments may not accept the results, e.g. France and Dutch on EU Constitution, rebranded and referendum not offered- went ahead anyway.
4.6 Governability Crisis- direct democracy can contribute to dysfunction- e.g. California
4.7 Referendums are dominated by elite groups- hijacked by wealthy and corporates e.g. California . Murdoch unkeen on EU- any referendum would severely unfairly reported
4.8 De Toqueville called referendums the 'Tyranny of the Majority'- abuse minorities e.g. Switzerland
4.9 Little public desire to participate- despite Indyref 85%, only 10% for Sunderland Mayor. Low Turnouts undermine legitimacy and lead to 'tyranny of the minority'.
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