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Are Voters Better Informed When They Have a Larger Say in Politics? Evidence for the European Union and Switzerland

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  • Matthias Benz
  • Alois Stutzer:

Abstract

Public choice theory takes citizens as rationally ignorant about political issues, because the costs of being informed greatly exceed the utility individuals derive from it. The costs of information (supply side) as well as the utility of information (demand side), however, can vary substantially depending on the political system under which citizens live. Using a large survey from Switzerland, we present empirical evidence that citizens are politically better informed when they have more extended participation rights in the political process. The results corroborate theoretical arguments and circumstantial evidence that voter information should be treated as endogenously determined by political institutions.

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Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 119.

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Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:119

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Keywords: voter competence; direct democracy; information costs; rational ignorance;

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  1. Christoph A. Schaltegger & Lars P. Feld, 2001. "On Government Centralization and Budget Referendums: Evidence from Switzerland," CESifo Working Paper Series 615, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," IEW - Working Papers 015, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  3. Bohnet, Iris & Frey, Bruno S, 1994. "Direct-Democratic Rules: The Role of Discussion," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(3), pages 341-54.
  4. Moulton, Brent R, 1990. "An Illustration of a Pitfall in Estimating the Effects of Aggregate Variables on Micro Unit," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 72(2), pages 334-38, May.
  5. Alois Stutzer, . "Demokratieindizes für die Kantone der Schweiz," IEW - Working Papers 023, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  6. Nannestad, Peter & Paldam, Martin, 1994. " The VP-Function: A Survey of the Literature on Vote and Popularity Functions after 25 Years," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 79(3-4), pages 213-45, June.
  7. Frey, Bruno S, 1994. "Direct Democracy: Politico-economic Lessons from Swiss Experience," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 338-42, May.
  8. Hirschman, Albert O, 1989. "Having Opinions--One of the Elements of Well-Being?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(2), pages 75-79, May.
  9. Matsusaka, John G, 1995. " Explaining Voter Turnout Patterns: An Information Theory," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 84(1-2), pages 91-117, July.
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