Politics, Unit 1, Referenda

Cards dissembling an essay on the disadvantages of referenda.

  • Created by: Eleanor
  • Created on: 23-04-11 19:04


  • Sheer number of people makes it difficult.
  • Budget to either side of the question has to be equal.
  • Takes a lot of planning and preparation, which requires a lot of time.
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  • The views of a large minority could be ignored if the percentage difference between the two sides was low.
  • Alternatively, given a low turnout, a decision voteed for by a minority of the country could occur, which would ignore the views of, potentially, the majority.
  • For example, in the 1997 referendum on the Welsh Assembly, a minority of the country actually voted yes.
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Parliamentary Sovereignty

  • Undermines Parliament by bypassing them and their representative role as an elected body (in the case of the Commons)
  • It places authority elsewhere (in the hands of the people)
  • If Parliament are elected to govern, why should we need referenda?
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  • Some issues are too emotive, controversial or complicated for referenda to deal with.
  • For example, capital punishment or abortion
  • Such questions cannot really have a 'yes' or 'no' answer.
  • No referendum would be comprehensive enough to tackle such issues.
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  • Low turnout can invalidate referneda, which are not even legally binding to begin with.
  • Low turnout could strengthen the argument that an issue should be put to one side.
  • Could cause voter fatigue with too many unnecessary opportunities for electoral participation. 
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The Electorate

  • An ill-informed electorate cannot feasibly make an intelligent decision.
  • If they are ill-informed, they are unlikely to be interested, and as such turnout may be low.
  • Despite efforts to raise awareness, turnout is decreasing (1975 referendum on EEC: 64.5%, 2004 referendum on Nothern English Devolution: 47.7-50.2%)
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