Are Ballot Initiative Outcomes Inﬂuenced
by the Campaigns of Independent Groups?
A Precinct-Randomized Field Experiment Showing
That They Are
Published online: 11 July 2014
Ó Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014
Abstract Ballot initiatives are consequential and common, with total spending on
initiative campaigns in the US rivaling that of Presidential campaigns. Past work
using observational data has alternately found that initiative campaign spending
cannot affect initiative outcomes, can increase the number of votes rejecting (but not
approving) initiatives, or can affect outcomes in either direction. We report the ﬁrst
ﬁeld experiment to evaluate an initiative advocacy campaign with precision. We
ﬁnd that campaigns can inﬂuence both rejection and approval of initiatives by
changing how citizens vote, as opposed to by inﬂuencing turnout or ballot com-
pletion. Our experiment (involving around 18 % of Oregon households in 2008)
studied a statewide mail program conducted by a Political Action Committee.
Results further suggest that two initiatives would have passed if not for the advo-
cacy campaign to reject them. We discuss implications for theories about direct
democracy, campaign ﬁnance, and campaign effects.
Keywords Direct democracy Á Campaign effects Á Ballot measures Á Field
Ballot initiatives are a consequential, common, and costly aspect of American
politics. This form of direct democracy can determine laws that have important
economic and social consequences. Moreover, ballot initiatives may have
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s11109-014-9282-4)
contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
T. Rogers (&)
Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, MA, USA
University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA
Polit Behav (2015) 37:567–593