The criticism that ordinary voters lack the necessary competence to make policy decisions persists despite the growth, popularity and implementation of direct democratic instruments throughout the democratic world. This article presents a novel measure of voters' levels of justification as a possible, policy-specific, conceptualization of citizen competence in direct democracy. Using a unique dataset based on thirty-four ballot decisions in Switzerland, the study analyses the levels and correlates of citizen competence. The main findings are, first, that most voters do understand arguments about policies. Secondly, the political context as well as individual resources are important in determining voters' competence. Finally, with regard to individual resources, motivation is strongly associated with justification levels, while the effect of ability is smaller than expected.
Social scientists have documented framing effects in a wide range of contexts, includ-ing surveys, experiments, and actual political campaigns. Many view work on framing effects as evidence of citizen incompetence—that is, evidence that citizens base their preferences on arbitrary information and/or are subject to extensive elite manipula-tion. Yet, we continue to lack a consensus on what a framing effect is as well as an understanding of how and when framing effects occur. In this article, I examine (1) the different ways that scholars have employed the concepts of framing and framing effects, (2) how framing effects may violate some basic criteria of citizen competence, and (3) what we know about how and when framing effects work. I conclude that while the evidence to date suggests some isolated cases of incompetence, the more general message is that citizens use frames in a competent and well-reasoned manner. Key words: framing effects; competence; public opinion; mass communication; behav-ioral decision theory. For nearly half of a century, social scientists have shown that citizens ’ politi-cal judgments often depend on how an issue or problem is framed. For exam-
The implementation of a new electoral system, mixed member majoritarian system(MMM) in Taiwan’s 2008 legislative election has posted a challenge to voters. Under the old single nontransferable vote system(SNTV), which had implemented more than two decades, each voter had only one ballot and the multiple geographical seats are filled by top-scoring candidates in the order of votes they receive. At the same time, the votes received by political parties in constituencies also decide the allocation of seats through proportional representation system. Under the MMM system, each voter has two ballots—one is for single-member district and the other one is for party list. The changes in electoral rules are dramatic to electorate who have used the old SNTV system. With cross-section rolling sample data collected one month before the legislative election, we examine the extent to which party alignment and attention to news shape voter competence in terms of the new system. We expect that partisans were very eager to learn how the new electoral rules allocate the seats so they know more about the new system than the rest of citizens. Additionally, paying attention to news would also increase voter competence. We assess the relationship between voter competence and voting intention; high voting intention should result from high voter competence. The implication of this study is to shed new light on knowledge and democracy by the evaluation of voter’s political learning from political parties and the mass media.