Cues of Content

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A recurring argument against democracy, both in its direct and representative forms, is that ‘the people’ are not capable of making good political decisions. For decades, researchers have concluded that the median voter does not have the political knowledge thought necessary to cast a sensible and well-informed vote. More recently, this view was challenged through the concept of heuristics: information shortcuts that allow people to make choices not based primarily on encyclopaedic knowledge, but on things like personal experiences, the media, and the opinions of others. The idea that people make heavy use of heuristics when they decide on a vote has become broadly accepted in political science. However, much is still unclear about the role played by these information shortcuts in the context of direct democracy in Europe. Using survey data and logistic regression, I examine how vote choice in the Dutch 2018 referendum on the Intelligence and Security Services Act was affected by heuristics use, as well as by voters’ personal views on the factual referendum content. The results indicate that the referendum subject matter was the primary factor of influence. Voters’ personal opinions regarding the referendum content proved to be a strong predictor of whether a Yes- or No- vote was cast, and this did not change when the influence of four popular types of information shortcuts was controlled for. Still, the influence of heuristics cannot be entirely discounted, as I found support for the relevance of two types: party affiliation and, to a degree, endorsements.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen