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date: 08 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

We start by tracing the origins of modern-day direct democracy back to the ideas of participatory democrats, and we give a systematic overview of the different forms of direct democratic practices existing today, as well as of the main criticisms of direct democracy. Next, we review existing empirical evidence on some of the crucial debates surrounding direct democracy: Does direct democracy lead to systematically different policy outcomes and to a better representation of voters? Do popular votes hurt minority rights? To what extent does direct democracy undermine the relevance of, and participation in, elections? Are citizens competent enough to decide over policy at the ballot box? What is the role of the elite and of campaigns in direct democracy? Finally, we discuss the controversial relation between direct democracy and populism.

Keywords: direct democracy, participatory democracy, popular votes, populism, referendums

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