Plebiscite vs. Referendum

By Jaxson

  • Referendum

    A referendum (plural: referendums or less commonly referenda) is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is invited to vote on a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new law. In some countries, it is synonymous with a plebiscite or a vote on a ballot question.

    Some definitions of ‘plebiscite’ suggest it is a type of vote to change the constitution or government of a country. The word, ‘referendum’ is often a catchall, used for both legislative referrals and initiatives. Australia defines ‘referendum’ as a vote to change the constitution and ‘plebiscite’ as a vote which does not affect the constitution. whereas in Ireland, ‘plebiscite’ referred to the vote to adopt its constitution, but a subsequent vote to amend the constitution is called a ‘referendum’, as is a poll of the electorate on a non-constitutional bill.

  • Plebiscite (noun)

    A referendum, especially one that concerns changes in sovereignty

  • Referendum (noun)

    A direct popular vote on a proposed law or constitutional amendment. The adposition on is usually used before the related subject of the vote.

  • Referendum (noun)

    An action, choice, etc., which is perceived as passing judgment on another matter.

    “My father is taking my decision on whether to go to university as a referendum on his performance as a parent, and it’s very stressful.”


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