Spencer McKay

Spencer McKay

Buchanan Post-Doctoral Fellow in Canadian Democracy


PhD Political Science (UBC); MA Political Science (UBC); BSocSc (University of Ottawa)

Political Studies

Canadian Politics

Arts and Science



Mackintosh-Corry Hall, Room C414

Research Interests

Democratic theory, referendums and ballot initiatives, democratic institutions, leaders' debates

Brief Biography

My research focuses primarily on how democratic theory can inform the (re)design of democratic institutions. As Buchanan Post-Doctoral Fellow, I am beginning a new project that examines both continuity and change in democratic institutions by examining processes of democratic reform in Canada. My other ongoing projects, including a book manuscript entitled Democratizing Referendums, focus on referendums and ballot initiatives in the history of political thought and in contemporary democratic theory.

Before coming to Queen's, I held a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Wilf Family Department of Politics at New York University and was previously a research associate at the Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions at the University of British Columbia.

Selected Publications

Articles in Peer-Reviewed Journals

McKay, Spencer and Chris Tenove. (2020) “Disinformation as a Threat to Deliberative Democracy.” Political Research Quarterly. Forthcoming.

el-Wakil, Alice and Spencer McKay. (2019) “Disentangling Referendums and Direct Democracy: A Defence of the Systemic Approach to Popular Vote Processes.” Representation. 56 (4), 449–466.

McKay, Spencer. (2019) “Building a Better Referendum: Linking Mini-Publics and Mass Publics in Popular Votes.” Journal of Public Deliberation, 15 (1).

McKay, Spencer. (2018) “Designing Popular Vote Processes for Democratic Systems: Counter-proposals, Recurring Referendums, and Iterated Popular Votes.” Swiss Political Science Review, 24(3), 328–334.

Book Chapters

McKay, Spencer and Mark E. Warren. (2018) “Democratizing Participatory Governance Through Countervailing Power.” Handbook of Participatory Governance (ed. Hubert Heinelt), 77-93.

Non-Peer Reviewed Articles in Academic Journals

McKay, Spencer. (2021) “Democratic Theory and the Empirical Study of Popular Vote Processes.” Democratic Theory. 8(1), 110–125.

el-Wakil, Alice and Spencer McKay. (2020) “Introduction to the Special Issue ‘Beyond ‘Direct Democracy’: Popular Vote Processes in Democratic Systems’.” Representation. 56 (4), 435–447.

MacLeod, Peter, and Spencer McKay. (2018) “MASS LBP and Long-Form Deliberation in Canada.” Democratic Theory. 5(2), 108–13.