Social Indicators Research

pp 1-19

First online:

Direct Democracy and Subjective Well-Being: The Initiative and Life Satisfaction in the American States

  • Benjamin RadcliffAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, University of Notre Dame
  • , Gregory ShufeldtAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, University of Arkansas at Little Rock Email author 

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This paper considers the effect of direct democracy on quality of life in the American States. Specifically, it seeks to determine to what extent the use of the initiative affects satisfaction with life. The theoretical discussion draws upon traditional arguments over direct democracy, along with contemporary research on the quality of representation in the United States. The empirical results suggest that satisfaction varies positively with the extent to which initiatives are used. We also find that this relationship is mediated by income, such that the positive effects of direct democracy are most pronounced for those with the lowest income. The consequences for our understanding of direct democracy, public policy, and the study of life satisfaction are discussed.


Direct democracy Life satisfaction Subjective well-being Welfare state American States