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What is on the Table? Explaining the Types of Policies Subjected to Referendums in Europe

European Politics
Political Participation
Referendums and Initiatives
Comparative Perspective
Nanuli Silagadze
Åbo Akademi
Sergiu Gherghina
Babeş-Bolyai University
Nanuli Silagadze
Åbo Akademi

Abstract

Research devoted to the causes of referendums focused primarily on the roles and reasoning of the initiators, the debates around the topic and the drivers of the vote. However, less attention has been paid to explaining why some topics are subjected to referendums. This paper makes a first attempt in that directions and seeks to explain the variation in the topics subjected for referendum at national level in Europe. It argues and tests the explanatory power of three country level determinants (ideology of the government, experience with democracy and external shocks around referendums) shape the types of policies subjected to referendum. It also controls for a contagion effect from the neighbouring countries and experience with direct democracy in the country. The policies are clustered into 13 different types / policy areas and the quantitative analysis uses an original dataset including 622 referendums in Europe between 1793 and 2017.