New Polling: Strong Bipartisan Support for Citizen-Initiated Ballot Initiatives

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New BISC research shows high levels of trust in the ballot initiative process, in states where the process is under attack

WASHINGTON  — A new 11-state survey (AR, ID, MS, MO, MT, NE, ND, OH, OK, SD, UT) released by the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center (in partnership with EMC Research and North Star Opinion Research) shows strong support for citizen-led ballot initiatives across party lines. 92% of voters surveyed agree that the process is an important way for citizens to pass policies they care about and 93% agree that legislators have an obligation to carry out the will of the people. 

This report comes on the heels of escalating attempts to undermine direct democracy, as legislators and state actors are using a variety of tactics to delay or prevent measures from getting on the ballot. There have even been outright attempts to prevent implementation of ballot initiatives that voters have already passed. 

After multiple failed attempts to reinstate the Mississippi ballot initiative process after it was struck down in 2021, state legislators introduced a bill that would place significant restrictions on the state’s initiative process. In Missouri – legislators have introduced over 20 pieces of legislation to restrict the initiative process, and in Ohio, legislators are trying to prevent voter-approved ballot measures from becoming law. 

A proposed amendment in Utah would raise the threshold for passing citizen initiative to 60% if it increases taxes. The state GOP party in Idaho is urging the legislature to consider requiring two-thirds of voters to support an initiative for passage and is contemplating an amendment to the constitution to eliminate the initiative process completely. These heightened and organized attacks on ballot initiatives are in stark contrast to what we know voters want and what the data tells us.

Additional toplines from the survey include:

  • Opposition to Initiative Process Tampering: 82% of Democrats, 76% of Independents, and 61% of Republicans oppose attempts to change the citizen-led policymaking process in their state;
  • Legislatures Must Follow Through: 91% of Democrats, 86% of Independents, and 78% of Republicans say legislatures should be required to enact ballot measures that a majority of voters approve;
  • Highest Confidence in Ballot Measures as Governance: Voters are more confident in citizen-led policymaking than in other forms of government, with 55% confidence in ballot initiatives as a lawmaking method vs. 40% confidence in state Supreme Courts, 39% confidence in elected officials or state legislatures, and only 24% confidence in Governors enacting laws

“The data is clear: voters want to have a direct say in our democracy, and they don’t want legislators to bypass the will of the people,” said Chris Melody Fields Figueredo, Executive Director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center

“In a world where voters feel like unpopular decisions are made for them – either by legislators pushing personal agendas or state Supreme Courts and governors suppressing fundamental rights – ballot initiatives are a way for people to vote for measures that directly impact them and give them the power to build the world we deserve.”

What our state partners have to say:

“For nearly a century, Idaho voters have used the ballot-initiative process to make their voice heard in government. The attempt by legislators to dramatically increase the threshold for passing initiatives from 50% to 66.7% is nothing other than a scheme to silence Idaho voters.” 

-Luke Mayville, Co-Founder, Reclaim Idaho

“The data is clear and compelling: Utahns believe that power is best in the hands of the people, not politicians. Utah politicians continue to attack our right to ballot initiatives, despite the clear data demonstrating a strong majority of Utahns – of all backgrounds and political parties – want their right to direct democracy protected.” 

-Katie Wright, Executive Director, Better Boundaries


To get more in-depth analysis on the ballot measure landscape, please contact us to speak with one of our experts.

You can also check out BISC’s Ballot Measure Hub for our expert analysis of progressive ballot measures that BISC is tracking, legal challenges, trends, attacks, threats, our research, and the progress being made to advance democracy and liberation via ballot measures.