David Altman is Professor of Political Science at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.  He also serves as Associate Researcher for the Uruguayan National Agency for Research and Innovation (ANII), and has twice received the Uruguayan National Prize of Political Science. He has more than fifty articles and chapters in peer-reviewed journals and volumes. His research and teaching interests lie in the field of comparative politics with an emphasis on democracy: its quality, its institutions, and its innovations. He is particularly interested in mechanisms of direct democracy and his current research extends his previous work by looking at the policy consequences of citizen participation through popular initiatives and referendums. He is the author of Direct Democracy Worldwide published by Cambridge University Press in 2011 (and 2014). He has been a visiting scholar at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies and the University of Texas at Austin, among others. He has previously held a Fulbright fellowship, and was Principal Investigator in five FONDECYT projects (Chilean NSF).  He is currently Program Manager at the Varieties of Democracy program and Deputy Principal Investigator of the Millennium Nucleus for the Study of Stateness and Democracy in Latin America.  He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame (2001) and his BA is from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Project Summary

Popular and direct votes (referendums, popular initiatives, and plebiscites) are not new and there is a growing use of them in the world, particularly after Second World War. A bird's–eye view of the last citizen-initiated mechanisms of direct democracy (CI-MDDs) held in Uruguay, United States, and Switzerland (among others) leaves us with a very strident conservative flavor. Is this, therefore, a distinctive nature of contemporary direct democracy? Unlike currents studies in the topic, this research does not pretend to study a particular policy area—such as immigration, gay rights, etc—rather, it looks at the policy consequences of direct citizen participation in the decision-making process in a novel comparative perspective using a unique database including all cases of mechanisms of direct democracy held in worldwide at the national level since 1980.

Major Publications

Altman, David. 2011. Direct Democracy Worldwide. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Altman, David. 2013. "Bringing Direct Democracy Back In: Toward a Three-Dimensional Measure of Democracy." Democratization 20 (4):615-41.

Altman, David. 2000. "The Politics of Coalition Formation and Survival in Multiparty Presidential Democracies: The Case of Uruguay 1989-1999." Party Politics 6 (3):259-83.