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David AltmanDavid Altman

Department of Political Science
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Santiago, Chile
Kellogg Institute Visiting Fellow

Work in Progress—“Mechanisms of Direct Democracy: Accelerator or Brake for Political Change?”

Tuesday, December 4, 2012
12:30 pm - C103 Hesburgh Center

Are mechanisms of direct democracy “conservative”—do they tend to consistently maintain the status quo regardless of the theme under consideration, as some of the literature suggests? Or do their results depend mostly on the matter under deliberation—or is it impossible to generalize because each popular vote is a world in itself and should be studied in its particular, unique context? To answer these questions, I use a novel database that includes all cases of direct democracy mechanisms (referendums, popular initiatives, and plebiscites) used in democracies worldwide at the national level since 1980.

David Altman (PhD, University of Notre Dame) returns to the Kellogg Institute for the fall semester from the Pontifica Universidad Católica de Chile, where he is professor of political science. Previously a Kellogg dissertation year fellow and guest scholar, he is collaborating with Faculty Fellow Michael Coppedge on the Varieties of Democracy project as project manager for direct democracy and Latin America.

Properly designed direct democracy can empower citizens by breaking through institutionalized barriers to accountability, Altman asserts. He will extend his research by looking at the policy consequences of citizen participation in the project “Does Direct Democracy Alter the Status Quo? The Policy Impact of Direct Democracy Around the World (1980–2010).” He plans a comprehensive large-N study to look at the worldwide use of mechanisms of direct democracy—referenda, popular initiatives, and plebiscites—with the goal of analyzing whether it is possible to make generalizations about popular votes, or if each vote is too distinct to draw patterns.
Altman’s most recent book is Direct Democracy Worldwide (Cambridge University Press, 2011), which is the springboard for his current project. He has also contributed numerous articles to peer-reviewed journals, including “Bringing Direct Democracy Back In: Towards a Three-Dimensional Measure of Democracy,” Democratization (forthcoming).




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