Who uses it: lawmakers and voters
What it means: A question put directly to a vote by the people of a country or district.
How you can use it: When calling for a group decision.
"Plebiscite" differs from "referendum," in that a referendum is a vote on a proposal or a law that the legislature has already considered, and a plebiscite is the first public action on an issue. The term has fallen out of use, because it's so closely associated with Nazi Germany's sham election that provided legal cover for the annexation of Austria.
The big issue in today's elections here is a referendum, not a plebiscite: Question 1, whether to reject Maine's law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The fact that this is even on the ballot is pretty hateful and horrifying. Dizzy and I went down to Gardiner City Hall first thing this morning, so I could cast my fervent NO vote.
Dizzy would have, too, if they'd let him register.