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Voter preferences, direct democracy and government spending

  • Funk, Patricia
  • Gathmann, Christina

This article uses unique voting data on 331 federal propositions to estimate voter preferences in Swiss cantons. We document that preferences vary systematically with cantonal characteristics. In particular, cantons whose voters are more conservative, less in favor of redistribution and less supportive of public spending tend to have stronger direct democracy. We show that voter preferences have a stable and sizable effect on government spending even conditional on many observable cantonal characteristics. We then revisit the relationship between direct democracy and public spending. Once we fully control for voter preferences, the cross-sectional correlation between direct democracy and government spending declines by roughly 20%. The results in this article provide empirical support for models, in which both voter preferences and direct democratic institutions are important determinants of the size of government.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal European Journal of Political Economy.

Volume (Year): 32 (2013)
Issue (Month): C ()
Pages: 300-319

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Handle: RePEc:eee:poleco:v:32:y:2013:i:c:p:300-319
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505544

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  1. Timothy Besley & Stephen Coate, 2000. "Issue Unbundling via Citizens' Initiatives," NBER Working Papers 8036, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Feld, Lars P. & Matsusaka, John G., 2003. "Budget referendums and government spending: evidence from Swiss cantons," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(12), pages 2703-2724, December.
  3. Besley, Timothy J. & Case, Anne, 2002. "Political Institutions and Policy Choices: Evidence from the United States," CEPR Discussion Papers 3498, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Brülhart, Marius & Jametti, Mario, 2007. "Does Tax Competition Tame the Leviathan?," CEPR Discussion Papers 6512, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  6. Schelker, Mark & Eichenberger, Reiner, 2010. "Auditors and fiscal policy: Empirical evidence on a little big institution," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 357-380, December.
  7. Knight, Brian G., 2000. "Supermajority voting requirements for tax increases: evidence from the states," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(1), pages 41-67, April.
  8. Dohmen, Thomas & Falk, Armin & Huffman, David B. & Sunde, Uwe, 2006. "The Intergenerational Transmission of Risk and Trust Attitudes," IZA Discussion Papers 2380, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Patricia Funk & Christina Gathmann, 2011. "Does Direct Democracy Reduce the Size of Government? New Evidence from Historical Data, 1890–2000," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(557), pages 1252-1280, December.
  10. Peltzman, Sam, 1992. "Voters as Fiscal Conservatives," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(2), pages 327-61, May.
  11. Jose Tavares, 2000. "Does Right or Left Matter? Cabinets, Credibility and Fiscal Adjustments," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1548, Econometric Society.
  12. Jeffrey Zax, 1989. "Initiatives and government expenditures," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 63(3), pages 267-277, December.
  13. Feld, Lars P. & Kirchgassner, Gebhard, 2000. "Direct democracy, political culture, and the outcome of economic policy: a report on the Swiss experience," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 287-306, June.
  14. Elisabeth R. Gerber & Jeffrey B. Lewis, 2004. "Beyond the Median: Voter Preferences, District Heterogeneity, and Political Representation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(6), pages 1364-1383, December.
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