National Mechanisms of Direct Democracy and Citizens' Perceptions of Vote Efficacy in Latin America
Mechanisms of Direct Democracy (MDDs), i.e. plebiscites, referendums and popular initiatives, allow citizens to decide on issues rather than just candidates, and to continue to be proactive in the democratic process or veto players after the elections.If participation in MDDs is considered a good thing, as in the 16 Latin American countries analyzed here, people appreciate having more access to the political decisions, and they may feel a growth in the influence of the vote. Their evaluation can be different depending on the type of MDD, how many happened in the recent history, the number and salience of issues. Considering another institutional variable (MDDs) to explain citizens' opinions is interesting because it is easier to change institutions than alter cultural and socio-economic structures. Despite the limited number of available cases to test with data from Latinobarometro surveys (1996-2009), the results indicate that MDDs have more positive impact on people's perceptions of vote efficacy – from 16% to 82% more probability – than elections (12%). Also, mandatory plebiscites and MDDs on very salient issues are more likely to influence citizens' feelings about the vote than presidential approval, interpersonal trust, trust in Congress and good evaluation of the country economic situation.