Rogers, Todd, and Joel Middleton. "Are Ballot Initiative Outcomes Influenced by the Campaigns of Independent Groups? A Precinct-Randomized Field Experiment Showing That They Are." Political Behavior 37.3 (September 2015): 567-593.
Ballot initiatives are consequential and common, with total spending on initiative campaigns in the US rivaling that of Presidential campaigns. Past work using observational data has alternately found that initiative campaign spending cannot affect initiative outcomes, can increase the number of votes rejecting (but not approving) initiatives, or can affect outcomes in either direction. We report the first field experiment to evaluate an initiative advocacy campaign with precision. We find that campaigns can influence both rejection and approval of initiatives by changing how citizens vote, as opposed to by influencing turnout or ballot completion. Our experiment (involving around 18 % of Oregon households in 2008) studied a statewide mail program conducted by a Political Action Committee. Results further suggest that two initiatives would have passed if not for the advocacy campaign to reject them. We discuss implications for theories about direct democracy, campaign finance, and campaign effects.