IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Participation and Political Equality in Direct Democracy: Educative Effect or Social Bias


  • Matthias Fatke


This paper analyzes the moderating effect of direct democracy on the relationship of socioeconomic status and political participation. A skeptical position holds that direct democracy increases social bias in the electorate as issues are too complex and demanding. Participatory democrats in contrast invoke an educative effect of direct democratic institutions, thus decreasing social bias of the electorate. To test both arguments we use data from the Swiss equivalent of the American states and estimate cross-level interactions of socioeconomic direct democracy variables on political participation. First differences between effects in the least and most direct democratic cantons are not statistically significant. This result may be seen as relief for skeptics as well as disappointment for proponents of direct democracy.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthias Fatke, 2013. "Participation and Political Equality in Direct Democracy: Educative Effect or Social Bias," University of Bern Social Sciences Working Papers 3, University of Bern, Department of Social Sciences.
  • Handle: RePEc:bss:wpaper:3

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: First version, 2013
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Frey, Bruno S & Stutzer, Alois, 2000. "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(466), pages 918-938, October.
    2. Joshua J. Dyck & Nicholas R. Seabrook, 2010. "Mobilized by Direct Democracy: Short‐Term Versus Long‐Term Effects and the Geography of Turnout in Ballot Measure Elections," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 91(1), pages 188-208, March.
    3. Brambor, Thomas & Clark, William Roberts & Golder, Matt, 2006. "Understanding Interaction Models: Improving Empirical Analyses," Political Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 14(1), pages 63-82, January.
    4. David Dreyer Lassen, 2005. "The Effect of Information on Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," American Journal of Political Science, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 49(1), pages 103-118, January.
    5. Arthur A. Goldsmith, 2005. "Plebiscites, Fiscal Policy and the Poor: Learning from US Experience with Direct Democracy," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 23(5), pages 553-566, September.
    6. Hamilton, Howard D., 1970. "Direct Legislation: Some Implications of Open Housing Referenda," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(1), pages 124-137, March.
    7. Peter Selb, 2008. "Supersized votes: ballot length, uncertainty, and choice in direct legislation elections," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 135(3), pages 319-336, June.
    8. Fowler, James H. & Baker, Laura A. & Dawes, Christopher T., 2008. "Genetic Variation in Political Participation," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 102(2), pages 233-248, May.
    9. Brady, Henry E. & Verba, Sidney & Schlozman, Kay Lehman, 1995. "Beyond SES: A Resource Model of Political Participation," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 89(2), pages 271-294, June.
    10. Mendelsohn, Matthew & Cutler, Fred, 2000. "The Effect of Referendums on Democratic Citizens: Information, Politicization, Efficacy and Tolerance," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 30(4), pages 669-698, October.
    11. Bowler, Shaun & Donovan, Todd, 2002. "Democracy, Institutions and Attitudes about Citizen Influence on Government," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 32(2), pages 371-390, April.
    12. Hall, Peter A. & Taylor, Rosemary C. R., 1996. "Political science and the three new institutionalisms," MPIfG Discussion Paper 96/6, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Stutzer, Alois & Baltensperger, Michael & Meier, Armando N., 2019. "Overstrained citizens? The number of ballot propositions and the quality of the decision process in direct democracy," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 483-500.
    2. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, "undated". "The Role of Direct Democracy and Federalism in Local Power," IEW - Working Papers 209, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    3. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, "undated". "Direct Democracy: Designing a Living Constitution," IEW - Working Papers 167, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    4. Frey, Bruno S., 2004. "Direct Democracy for a Living Constitution," Freiburg Discussion Papers on Constitutional Economics 04/5, Walter Eucken Institut e.V..
    5. Luigi M. Solivetti, 2020. "Political partisanship versus turnout in Italy’s 2016 referendum," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 54(3), pages 709-734, June.
    6. Deniz Guvercin, 2019. "Going to the Polls or Feeding Children? An Empirical Investigation of Voter Turnout among Turkish Women with Children at Home," Bogazici Journal, Review of Social, Economic and Administrative Studies, Bogazici University, Department of Economics, vol. 33(1), pages 1-16.
    7. Victor G. Hugg & Kelly LeRoux, 2019. "Personality traits as predictors of citizen engagement with local government," Journal of Behavioral Public Administration, Center for Experimental and Behavioral Public Administration, vol. 2(2).
    8. Anna Kern, 2017. "The Effect of Direct Democratic Participation on Citizens’ Political Attitudes in Switzerland: The Difference between Availability and Use," Politics and Governance, Cogitatio Press, vol. 5(2), pages 16-26.
    9. Benjamin Radcliff & Gregory Shufeldt, 2016. "Direct Democracy and Subjective Well-Being: The Initiative and Life Satisfaction in the American States," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 128(3), pages 1405-1423, September.
    10. Matthias Fatke, 2013. "Allure or Alternative? Direct Democracy and Party Identification," University of Bern Social Sciences Working Papers 4, University of Bern, Department of Social Sciences.
    11. Borgonovi, Francesca & Pokropek, Artur, 2017. "Mind that gap: The mediating role of intelligence and individuals' socio-economic status in explaining disparities in external political efficacy in 28 countries," Intelligence, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 125-137.
    12. Poy, Samuele & Schüller, Simone, 2020. "Internet and voting in the social media era: Evidence from a local broadband policy," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(1).
    13. Wohlgemuth, Michael & Sideras, Jörn, 2004. "Globalisability of Universalisability? How to apply the Generality Principle and Constitutionalism internationally," Freiburg Discussion Papers on Constitutional Economics 04/7, Walter Eucken Institut e.V..
    14. Sasha Quahe, 2018. "EU in crisis: what implications for climate and energy policy?," Asia Europe Journal, Springer, vol. 16(2), pages 169-182, June.
    15. Jung-In Jo & Hyun Jin Choi, 2019. "Enigmas of grievances about inequality: Effects of attitudes toward inequality and government redistribution on protest participation," International Area Studies Review, Center for International Area Studies, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, vol. 22(4), pages 348-368, December.
    16. Torgler, Benno & Schneider, Friedrich & Schaltegger, Christoph A., 2007. "With or Against the People? The Impact of a Bottom-Up Approach on Tax Morale and the Shadow Economy," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt6331x6vz, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
    17. Andrew Boutton, 2019. "Of terrorism and revenue: Why foreign aid exacerbates terrorism in personalist regimes," Conflict Management and Peace Science, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 36(4), pages 359-384, July.
    18. Steffi Heinecke, 2016. "The Gradual Transformation of the Polish Public Science System," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 11(4), pages 1-17, April.
    19. Benno Torgler & Friedrich Schneider, 2005. "What Shapes the Attitudes Towards Paying Taxes? Evidence from Switzerland, Belgium and Spain," CREMA Working Paper Series 2005-06, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    20. Chiara Benassi, 2016. "Liberalization Only at the Margins? Analysing the Growth of Temporary Work in German Core Manufacturing Sectors," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 54(3), pages 597-622, September.

    More about this item


    Direct democracy; Political participation; Educative effect; SES model; First differences;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bss:wpaper:3. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Ben Jann (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.