What referendums are and the postives and negatives.

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What are Referendums

A referendum is a vote on a single issue: for example, whether or not the voter wishes the UK to stay in the European Union.

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  • They are highly democratic
  • They involve citizens in major issues which affect their whole lives.
  • They encourage participation in politics.
  • They give government consent for a specific action.
  • They can end controversy on highly divisive issues, such as devolution (Scotland and Wales 1997) and membership of the EU (1975).
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  • They go totally against the UK's traditional system of representative democracy, where elected representatives in Parliament make major decisions after debating all the relevant issues.
  • Governments only hold them when they are sure that they will win. The wording of the question could be misleading, as was argued in the 1975 referendum on EU membership.
  • Some issues are highly complex such as whether to join the Euro. To make a decision on a highly sophisticated topic requires a degree of expert knowledge , which many of the electorate will not possess. Press can highly influence the electorate on issues which they may not know much about. Also, if the public does not know much about the issue at hand then turnout for the election will be low.
  • There is a risk that a decision, such as the reintroduction of capital punishment, might be forced on a government that thinks it is totally wrong and does not wish to implement it.
  • There is a risk that majorities will use referendums to impose restrictions on minorities. A referendum on immigration and asylum, or example, could cause enourmous problems.
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