Todd Donovan

Todd Donovan
Western Washington University | WWU · Department of Political Science

Degree: Yes

About

150
Publications
41,235
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4,568
Citations
Additional affiliations
January 1945 - present
Western Washington University
Position
  • Professor (Full)

Publications

Publications (150)
Article
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We propose a model of public response to politicized election reform. In this model, rival partisan elites send signals on the need and consequences of a proposed reform, with partisans in public adopting those positions. We apply this to test how state use of voter identification laws corresponded with public evaluations of the conduct of a state’...
Article
Studies of support for radical-right populist (RRP) parties find the parties generally receive more support from men than women. This note re-examines the persistent RRP gender gap and explains variation in the gap with country and party-level characteristics. It provides two measures of the gap at the party/country level, and offers hypotheses abo...
Article
The literature on comparative political institutions highlights a tradeoff between majoritarian/plurality and proportional/consensus models of democracy. The former arrangement is said to enhance party responsibility and single-party accountability. The latter promotes representation of a range of parties offering voters clear choices, with a coali...
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New Zealand First is occasionally misclassified as a ‘radical right’ and/or ‘right-wing populist party.’ This presents an opportunity to examine how parties might be placed into this family of parties. This paper draws from literature describing parties to propose five criteria to classify a party as radical right/right-wing populist, in part based...
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We test hypotheses about individual-level (partisanship and self-interest), and state-level factors (tax policy) that may shape public attitudes about raising taxes. Respondents were given a scenario where a state budget needed to be balanced with spending cuts or tax increases, and a scenario where either state sales or state income taxes would be...
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This article tests if radical right populist (RRP) parties draw support from voters with non-mainstream, illiberal attitudes. This follows from assumptions that these parties have rhetorical, stylistic and practical critiques of liberal democracy that appeal to people with politically authoritarian attitudes. I use Module 5 Comparative Study of Ele...
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This paper examines which parties attract support from people with authoritarian attitudes by comparing multi-party systems to a pure two-party system (the US). It proposes reasons why radical right populist (RRP) parties may serve as outlets for illiberal sentiments in multiparty systems, and offers reasons why such attitudes could correspond with...
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We examine the gap between perceptions of seeing referendums as an important democratic principle, versus perceiving how referendums are used in practice. We term this the “referendum disappointment” gap. We find support for referendums as a democratic principle is strongest among those most disaffected from the political system, and that the disaf...
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Direct democracy promises politics that improve links between citizens and their representatives, and satisfies popular demand for increased engagement. In practice it may fall well short, given limited citizen capacity, poor information from campaigns, and ill-designed processes. The articles here represent the opportunities that direct democracy...
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Objectives Ranked‐choice voting (RCV) is relatively complex compared to plurality voting. We test if some voters find it more challenging. Methods We conducted surveys in RCV cities and plurality cities to assess how voters reported understanding voting instructions, and how they reported understanding election systems. Results Fewer voters repor...
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We model attitudes about Congress as structured by perceptions of campaign finance. Attitudes about unlimited corporate and union spending are modeled as structured by knowledge about Congress. We find people with more factual knowledge of Congress were more likely to view unlimited independent corporate and union spending as having improper influe...
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We compare sources of Donald Trump’s appeal in the 2016 US presidential campaign to the appeal of right-populists from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. We compare the appeal of right-populist to center-right candidates in each case (as measured with feeling thermometers) and test hypotheses about how the appeal of right-populists differs...
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Public opinion on high-visibility election rules can be expected to reflect elite-level party divisions. We explain how partisanship affects support for, and opposition to, low-visibility convenience voting reforms. We find state-level factors such as quality of polling-place voting and party polarization explain some variance in support. However,...
Chapter
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The concept of cognitive mobilization can be traced to the works of Ron Inglehart and, most specifically, to a rich body of work by Russell Dalton. Inglehart (1970) advanced the idea that European society was changing in the 1960s in ways that were disseminating post-materialist values and changing how people were oriented to European (vs. national...
Chapter
The introduction of referendums and initiative in North America was deeply influenced by the populists in the late 19th Century and the Progressives in the early 20th Century who championed direct democracy as a means of controlling the moneyed elite. Today provisions for referendums exist in all but one of the US States and provisions for initiati...
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Features of electoral systems have been found to have positive effects on evaluations of democracy. We propose that there are larger social forces that must be accounted for in such analyses. Using European Social Survey measures of democratic expectations and the 'satisfaction with democracy,' item, we test for effects of electoral rules on percep...
Chapter
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Many nations ban the release of pre-election poll results based on the assumption that voters will be adversely influenced by poll information. The AAPOR notes that there is no scientific evidence that voter decisions are influenced by media polls. This study uses survey experiments to assess if respondents might be influenced by a hypothetical can...
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Right-wing populist parties tend to combine criticism of how liberal democracy functions with calls for greater direct democracy. But do their voters share that support for direct democracy? In this article, survey data is used to examine, first, whether right-wing populist candidates in Australia, Canada and New Zealand were more supportive of dir...
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Many Americans think campaign money has a corrupting influence on Congress. Yet how they think about money in politics is a relatively unexplored topic. This article investigates how the public reasons about campaign money and corruption. Our survey experiments demonstrate that attitudes about campaign money are structured by partisan interest and...
Chapter
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In this chapter we are interested in how members of different generations evaluate democracy in nations where it is most firmly established. Our hypothesis is that people develop enduring beliefs about democratic politics at some formative point, early in life. We also expect this socialization process to differ across generational cohorts. We find...
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Studies of perceptions of democratic performance and satisfaction with democracy may over estimate effects of electoral rules on attitudes if country-level corruption and income inequality are not accounted for. We use mixed-level models to estimate evaluations of democracy using data from Wave 6 of the European Social Survey. We use new measures o...
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This article assesses religion and voting in Australia since 1987 and examines how Tony Abbott’s status as Liberal leader corresponded with changes in leader evaluations and voting, and with significant changes in Australian parties and the electorate. Religious attendance became associated more strongly with Liberal voting in 2010. Catholics voted...
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From referendums on Scottish independence and the European Union to the recall of MPs, the popularity of direct democracy is growing in the UK. But, warns Todd Donovan, the American experience shows that more democratic is not always better.
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We surveyed Iowa caucus goers and other Republicans to assess how representative the 2012 caucuses were of Republicans in Iowa. We find that demographically and ideologically, people reporting they would attend the caucus were quite similar to self-identified Iowa Republicans who said they would not caucus. We then model outcomes in Iowa and New Ha...
Chapter
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Americans vote directly on all manner of topics at the sub-national level, including constitutional matters, major fiscal issues, local land use questions, education policy, electoral rules and questions of rights and liberties. Citizen-initiated measures (popular initiatives) are a dominant feature of politics in several American states. However,...
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We examine whether votes on minority rights make the public less sympathetic to the targeted group. Panel data are used to test whether votes on marriage changed public attitudes about gays and lesbians. We propose the marriage debate had a stigmatizing effect on attitudes about gays and lesbians in states where marriage was on the ballot. Results...
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This paper examines the question of what shapes a voter's sense of duty to vote. We begin with a standard model of turnout at the 2011 British electoral system referendum. We show that the respondent's assessment of whether it is a citizen's duty to vote on referendums adds substantial explanatory power to a basic model of turnout. From here we mov...
Book
Contents 1. The Promise and Politics of Electoral Reform 2. Institutional Change and Citizens 3. Arguments for Change - Partisan Interests and Expectations about Process 4. Assessing Effects of Reforms: Changing the Electoral System 5. Campaign Finance Reform: A Collection of Null Results 6. Term Limits: Effects, But Not as Advertised 7. Direct Leg...
Article
In this project, we examine the effects of electoral competition on political corruption. Specifically, we propose that electoral competition may facilitate some types of corruption, while mitigating others. We argue pressures of competitive elections may increase incentives for candidates and their supporters to violate laws that regulate the cond...
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Given the fluid context of primaries and observed swings in national polls, many Democratic voters likely switched candidate support over the course of the 2008 primary campaign. We examine how perceptions of early caucus and primary outcomes subsequently affected voter choice and candidate momentum. Although the 2008 calendar left many voters with...
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Rules governing the conduct of elections have important consequences for democratic politics, and much can be learned from studying changes in electoral rules. Instances of change (or reform) allow us the possibility of examining how (or whether) new rules might create different outcomes. The authors consider the effects of two major changes in ele...
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Washington's experience with primary elections provides an opportunity to assess issues associated with implementing the top two primary and an opportunity to examine how changing to a top two primary may affect elections and voting. Although the Washington context is different from California (top two replaced an open partisan primary in Washingto...
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This article asks why, and when, the process of nominating candidates in the United States changed from conventions to direct primaries. We conduct an event history analysis to investigate rival explanations for why the rules governing nominations changed. One credits reformist pressures that were largely external to the interests of the major poli...
Article
Full-text available
Rules governing the conduct of elections have important consequences for democratic politics, and much can be learned from studying changes in electoral rules. Instances of change (or reform) allow us the possibility of examining how (or whether) new rules might create different outcomes. We begin with a discussion of how electoral reform might occ...
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This article examines how electoral competition, in the form of district-level campaign expenditures, affects voters’ opinions about elections. We direct our attention at how voters perceive competition, and at how electoral competition affects how people perceive elections. Although people generally overestimate the competitiveness of U.S. House r...
Article
Campaigns have been shown to increase public awareness of issues and candidates. Little is known about how ballot measure campaigns affect attitudes about the subjects of those campaigns. This paper makes use of ANES panel data to assess if attitudes about gays and lesbians changed in response to same-sex marriage referendum campaigns. Preliminary...
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This paper tests hypothesis about why and where the Democratic state-level presidential vote changed from 2004 to 2008. Results are consistent with a racial threat hypothesis that proposes some white voters were less receptive to African American candidates if they lived in a state with a larger African American population. State racial context str...
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Caroline J. Tolbert, Amanda Keller, and Todd Donovan examine public opinion data on proposals to reform the presidential nominating process. They argue that one way to preserve a role for grassroots politics and the sequential process that is critical for candidate quality is to combine rotating state primaries and caucuses in a dozen small-populat...
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Whereas the classic literature on strategic voting has focused on the dilemma faced by voters who prefer a candidate for whom they expect has little chance of winning a seat, we consider the dilemma faced by voters in PR systems who do not expect their preferred party to be in government. We develop hypotheses relating to strategic voting over mult...
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This article provides an argument that other questions arise from the study of voting on ballot propositions that relate to the variety of voter preferences, how voter opinions are formed, and how voters think about democratic institutions. Although voting on some proposals may well be quite difficult and voting on many proposals may well tax the p...
Article
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Why was direct democracy adopted in some U.S. states and not others? In this article, we sort through the various arguments advanced in the predominantly historical literature by using event history analysis. Among other factors we identify the importance of popular support for Populists and Socialists as well as the constraints imposed by state co...
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Research has found that states using initiatives and referendums have higher turnout, particularly in midterm elections. Existing research has not examined who is mobilized to vote when issues appear on statewide ballots. Building on work by Campbell (1966. “Surge and Decline: A Study of Electoral Change.” In Elections and the Political Order, eds....
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This article explores how results from Iowa may affect outcomes in subsequent nomination contests. We suggest that how Iowa matters may be determined, at least in part, by how voters and the news media assess whether or not candidates meet or exceed expectations there.
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Previous research has found that the campaigns of candidates running for office provide information to voters and can increase turnout. Scholarly research has also found that states with initiatives and referendums appearing on the ballot have higher voter turnout, especially in midterm elections. However, actual initiative campaigns are rarely mea...
Article
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We demonstrate that direct democracy can affect the issues voters consider when evaluating presidential candidates. Priming theory assumes that some voters have latent attitudes or predispositions that can be primed to affect evaluations of political candidates. We demonstrate that: (1) state ballot measures on same sex marriage increased the salie...
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Voters in nearly half the states adopted term limits between 1990 and 2000, and recent efforts to repeal or extend these caps generally have suffered sound defeats. Past research demonstrates that while robust majorities approved of limiting the terms of elected officials, support was strongest among government cynics and minority-party identifiers...
Chapter
Electoral reform in the US sees a great deal of experimentation in electoral reform at the local level but almost none at the national level. Explaining the lack of change in electoral institutions is quite difficult. Explanations grounded in a rational choice approach that compares the differing incentives facing electoral winners and losers and c...
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This paper examines the potential for strategic Republican crossover voting in the March 4, 2008 Democratic primaries. Some observers note that conservative media figures encouraged Republicans to raid the Democratic primary in order to weaken the Democratic Party's chances in the November election. Analysis of exit poll data from 38 states suggest...
Chapter
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In this chapter we examine how both regulatory barriers and uncompetitive elections depress voter turnout. Given low levels of political interest it is unclear how much voter participation might increase even if regulatory barriers to registration and voting were removed. Voters uninterested in politics may simply not respond to the removal of regu...
Chapter
Political parties are central actors in representative democracy. Although it is possible to have political parties without democracy, it does not seem possible—at least in the modern era—to have democracy without political parties.1 A major statement of idea is that of the responsible party government model (APSA 1950): strong, coherent, and persi...
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Widespread approval of direct democracy has been attributed to politically engaged citizens who seek more opportunities to participate in politics. Others suggest that people prefer a limited role in politics, but cynicism with representation leads them to embrace direct democracy. The authors analyze opinion in sixteen affluent democracies to test...
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This study assesses how the mass public reasons about political institutions by examining the effects of winning and losing on support for several electoral reform proposals. The national sample survey identified majorities supporting proposals for major changes in America's electoral institutions, and that suggested electoral losses may have a mod...
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We model Current Population Survey data with HLM to resolve estimation problems found in studies of how state-level electoral competition affects individual level turnout. We test if voters assumed to be least interested in politics are most likely to be mobilized by competitive elections that stimulates interest. We find that electoral competition...
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Between 1898 and 1992 over 1700 initiatives relating to either statutory or constitutional changes were placed before US voters at state level. Shaun Bowler and Todd Donovan argue that the initiative process is intended as a complement to ‐ not a replacement for ‐ representative democracy.
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The expanding use of direct democracy in many established democracies reflects a desire to provide citizens with more opportunities to be involved in the political process. These changes are assumed to be embraced by those who demand greater citizen involvement, though the underlining motivation remains unclear. One theory assumes that support is l...
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We examine the origins of direct democracy in the American states and assess how direct democracy has affected American political parties. We find adoption of the most directly democratic forms of the initiative in states where Populist forces were strongest in the 1890s. Use of the initiative throughout the twentieth century led to more restrictiv...
Article
We examine whether MPs and candidates for parliament are motivated by electoral self-interest, values, ideology, or all of these when evaluating proposals for changing electoral institutions. Using survey data from four countries (Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, and New Zealand), we find that candidates who won election are less supportive of...
Chapter
Although the USA uses the single-member plurality system, its elections look very different to the UK and most other countries. This is partly due to the very decentralized federal nature of elections, and the importance of the presidency and the system of candidate primaries. The extensive legal regulation of elections, primaries, and the highly r...
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Objective. We test hypotheses about support for multiparty politics in the United States. We expect that individual-level attitudes and state-level partisan context determine who supports having more parties. Methods. Survey data are used to model attitudes about having additional parties to challenge Democrats and Republicans. Results. Self-identi...