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Development Ballot Measures, Interest Group Endorsements, and the Political Geography of Growth Preferences


  • We gratefully acknowledge the support of the National Science Foundation (SES-0001866) and the UCSD Civic Collaborative. Gerber acknowledges the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

Elisabeth R. Gerber is Professor of Public Policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, 712 Oakland Ave., Suite 250, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3021A ( Justin H. Phillips is a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0521 (


In response to rapid population and economic growth, many communities have turned to voter initiatives to resolve their land use disputes. We find that despite strong public concern about growth, voters often support measures that allow or encourage new development. We consider the sources of this support by analyzing patterns of voting on a range of prodevelopment ballot initiatives. These initiatives provide a valuable opportunity to understand how economic self-interest, geography, interest group endorsements, and public goods affect citizen support for development policies. We find that interest group endorsements significantly increase public support for new development. These endorsements help voters evaluate the personal impact of complex development proposals and allow voters to behave in ways that reflect a high degree of sophistication.