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FRED CUTLER [*]
Government-sponsored referendums on issues of national importance are occurring with greater frequency in countries with only sporadic experience with direct democracy. Comprehensive studies exist which examine the origins, conduct and regulation of referendums, as well as their consequences for the political system.  There have also been a large number of studies addressing voting behaviour during particular campaigns,  and a great deal of research on the far more elaborate and systematized processes in those countries, notably the United States and Switzerland, with recognized initiative mechanisms for citizens to pose referendum questions.  Yet no empirical study has attempted to answer the question of how government-sponsored referendum campaigns in countries with little history of direct democracy affect citizens' democratic comportment more generally.
This is not to say that the literature is not teeming with arguments concerning the supposedly meritorious or nefarious effects of referendums on citizens. It is customary for books on direct democracy to include a review of these arguments.  Proponents contend that referendum campaigns can increase politicization, political knowledge and efficacy,  addressing, at least in a small way, the 'democratic deficit'. On the other side, some worry that referendums might bring out intolerance in mass publics and undermine minority rights.  These claims, all more or less plausible, are based largely on speculation and have not been subject to empirical investigation. As Budge has remarked, while arguments for and against direct democracy are advanced rather casually, 'little attention has been given to how citizens actually behave when they are consulted'. 
Using the Canadian Election Study (CES), we present evidence that speaks to these claims. The CES employed a rolling cross-section methodology and was in the field during the 1992 referendum on the Charlottetown Constitutional Accord. This is the first and only rolling cross-section to be in the field during a referendum campaign. It therefore provides an unparalleled opportunity to examine the dynamics of citizen response to national referendum campaigns. We are not interested in the 'determinants of the vote', a question which has been addressed elsewhere.  Rather, we are interested in four broader questions relevant to democratic theory:
1. 'Do referendums increase political knowledge?' Some have argued that popular consultations have a pedagogic function. Barber, for instance, argues that the 'referendum can ... provide a permanent instrument of civic education'.  A small number of empirical studies have concluded that voters do learn as campaigns progress, particularly if the government adopts a pedagogic rather than a propagandistic approach.  The quantitative evidence, however, is weak,  with some scholars simply asserting impressionistically that knowledge increases during campaigns.  Moreover, even if there is a general increase in knowledge, it is uncertain whether the campaign induces the habitually inattentive to sit up and pay attention, thereby reducing the 'information gap'. 
2. 'Do referendums increase politicization?' Many proponents of direct democracy suggest that representative institutions, by their nature, depoliticize the average citizen; direct democracy, by contrast, would increase citizens' interest in politics and thus stimulate popular participation.  Yet the only evidence for this is that turnout and interest during campaigns tends to be high, which may tell us only that referendums are usually held on issues of high salience, not that referendum campaigns actually politicize citizens.
3. 'Do referendums promote political efficacy?' Some suggest that elections are a weak form of democratic control and citizens are alienated due to a lack of visible and direct influence on political outcomes.  Referendums, by some accounts, would therefore increase political efficacy by offering citizens a direct say in policy making. However, a variety of alternative explanations for alienation are possible and no study has been conducted on the question.
4. 'Do referendums encourage political intolerance?' The most common criticism of referendums is that they provoke the polarization of political discourse, usually on symbolic or emotional issues, and hence activate authoritarian tendencies, tribal loyalties and a vulgar majoritarianism.  However, there is little evidence to support this concern in relation to national referendums in established democracies. Evidence of intolerance has turned up when studying American state initiatives  -- which is not surprising since many are explicitly directed towards questions dealing with minority rights -- or during times of great upheaval, such as the spate of consultations in Eastern Europe following the fall of the Soviet Union.  Yet it is doubtful whether these consultations tell us much about how citizens behave during national referendums in established democracies. In fact, Svensson argues that referendums in Denmark help protect the disenfranchised and generally powerless. 
Scholars have lamented the patchy state of our knowledge  and a body of understanding is growing that allows for theory-building on the determinants of referendum voting.  However, on the four questions addressed in this Note  political science has offered offered mostly speculation.  Answers to these questions of course could be affected by the idiosyncrasies of a given campaign. However, while it is true that 'each campaign is different', political scientists have none the less built a substantial body of knowledge concerning electoral behaviour across time and space and there is no compelling reason why the same cannot be accomplished with respect to referendum behaviour.  By identifying the Canadian experience in 1992, we generate re-testable hypotheses that may be applied to future referendum campaigns.
DATA AND METHODS
We draw on the 1992 CES data. The CES employed a rolling cross-section and interviewed about eighty different respondents each of the thirty-one days of the official campaign period. Overall, 2,530 respondents were interviewed. A rolling cross-section is primarily concerned with the dynamics of opinion evolution, as each day of the campaign provides its own mini sample. Accordingly, the key independent variable in our analysis, Date of Interview, measures the effect of the campaign because it takes on a higher value (1) for those interviewed at the end of the campaign than for those interviewed at the beginning (0). Because the date on which a respondent was interviewed is independent of any other characteristics of the respondent, there is usually no need to control for …