[Note: This paper has been accepted for presentation at NCA 2013, the 99th annual convention of the National Communication Association, to be held 21-24 November 2013 in Washington, DC.]
Professor Dr. John Gastil of the Penn State University Department of Communication Arts and Sciences and I have posted a working paper entitled Legislation by Amateurs: The Role of Legal Details and Knowledge in Initiative Deliberation (2012).
Here is the abstract:
Citizens’ deliberations about the legal nature and effects of ballot measures were examined through a qualitative content analysis of transcripts from the 2010 Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review, the Citizens’ Review Statements produced by that review, and official state explanatory statements describing ballot measures. [The Citizens’ Review Statements and explanatory statements for Measures 73 and 74 are available in the official 2010 Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet.] Deliberations and statements were coded for law-related topics, functions, uses of narrative, and motivations for narration. Citizens’ deliberations and Citizens’ Review Statements were found to emphasize the policy objectives and unintended or adverse consequences of ballot measures, as well as the application of legal rules to multiple factual scenarios. By contrast, official state explanatory statements describing ballot measures made no mention of policy objectives or unintentional or adverse consequences. Results suggest that citizens’ approach to assessing ballot measures may have both strategic/instrumental and realistic dimensions and that rule-application may play a key role in enabling citizens’ understanding of the legal aspects of ballot measures.