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Down with people power

Direct democracy is back in fashion, seen as a way of restoring trust in politics. But more referendums, and even votes to sack MPs, are a bad idea—just look at what has happened in California

By Peter Kellner   July 2009

For 40 years I have been a devotee of public attitudes data, both as a journalist and now as president of the polling company YouGov. When the New York Times first coined the term “the second superpower” to describe world public opinion, I thought: “Yes! I help to give this superpower its voice.” But I have come to believe that giving public opinion direct political expression is a dangerous folly.

Nevertheless, following the Westminster expenses scandal and the backlash it has created, a range of populist, direct democracy measures are now being proposed, particularly by the Conservatives. At their heart…

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