Referendum or plebiscite: what’s the difference?

Research output: Non-textual formWeb publication/site


The words referendum and plebiscite refer to electoral institutions in which the mass of the population votes on an issue. However, they have very different political connotations.

Plebiscite is a negative term referring to an unfair and unfree vote in an undemocratic political system. It was a favourite device of French Emperors Napoleon Bonaparte and Louis Napoleon to endorse their charismatic leadership. Hitler and Mussolini held plebiscites in which rejection of the dictator’s proposal was unthinkable.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
Media of outputOnline
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2015


  • EU referendum
  • plebiscite
  • voting
  • British democratic political system


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