Overstrained Citizens? The Number of Ballot Propositions and the Quality of the Decision Process in Direct Democracy

80 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2019

See all articles by Alois Stutzer

Alois Stutzer

University of Basel - Faculty of Business and Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Michael Baltensperger

Bruegel

Armando Meier

University of Basel

Abstract

We study how the number of ballot propositions affects the quality of decision making in direct democracy, as reflected in citizens' knowledge, voting behavior, and attitudes toward democracy. Using three comprehensive data sets from Switzerland with over 3,500 propositions, we exploit variation in the number of federal and cantonal propositions. Voters know the most about the content of federal propositions when they are exclusively presented and less with a high number of concurrent cantonal propositions on the ballot. Across other outcomes we find no consistent indications that – for the observed variation in the exposure to popular votes – a high number of propositions impedes the quality of decision making in Swiss federal direct democracy. In the medium to longer term, more federal propositions on the ballot rather relate to higher perceived political influence and satisfaction with democracy.

Keywords: satisfaction with democracy, political knowledge, pole-party endorsements, political efficacy, direct democracy, ballot length, turnout, voter behavior

JEL Classification: D03, D72, D78, H00

Suggested Citation

Stutzer, Alois and Baltensperger, Michael and Meier, Armando, Overstrained Citizens? The Number of Ballot Propositions and the Quality of the Decision Process in Direct Democracy. IZA Discussion Paper No. 12399. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3408297

Alois Stutzer (Contact Author)

University of Basel - Faculty of Business and Economics ( email )

Peter Merian-Weg 6
4002 Basel
Switzerland
0041 61 267 3361 (Phone)
0041 61 267 3340 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.wwz.unibas.ch/stutzer/

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Michael Baltensperger

Bruegel ( email )

Rue de la Charité 33
B-1210 Brussels Belgium, 1210
Belgium

Armando Meier

University of Basel ( email )

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