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Direct Democracy and Campaigns Against Minorities

By Todd Donovan. Full text here.

I explore some of the indirect effects of holding popular votes on minority rights. This Article examines how direct democracy may expand the scope of conflict over issues of minority rights by allowing campaigns that subject a minority group to public judgment. Campaigns may precipitate messages that treat a minority group as a threat, as well as activate negative stereotypes about the group targeted by the campaign. I use panel survey data to examine whether campaigns against same-sex marriage had a stigmatizing effect on attitudes about gays and lesbians in states where the right to marriage was on the ballot in 2004. It is important to consider that independent of policy outcomes, subjecting a minority group to public judgment about rights may promote animus toward the targeted group.