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The Generation Gap in Direct Democracy

Author

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  • Gabriel M. Ahlfeldt
  • Wolfgang Maennig
  • Steffen Q. Mueller

Abstract

We provide the first systematic documentation and analysis of a generation gap in direct democracy outcomes across a wide range of topics using postelection survey data covering more than 300 Swiss referenda and four decades. We find that older voters are more likely to resist reform projects, particularly those that are associated with the political left. We separate age and cohort effects without imposing functional form constraints using a panel rank regression approach. The aging effect on political orientation is robust for controlling for arbitrary cohort effects and appears to be driven by expected utility maximization and not by habituation-induced status-quo bias. Our results suggest that population aging raises the hurdle for investment-like reform projects with positive net present values, long-run benefits and short-run costs in direct polls.

Suggested Citation

  • Gabriel M. Ahlfeldt & Wolfgang Maennig & Steffen Q. Mueller, 2018. "The Generation Gap in Direct Democracy," CEP Discussion Papers dp1552, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp1552
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ahlfeldt, Gabriel M. & Maennig, Wolfgang & Mueller, Steffen Q., 2018. "The generation gap in direct democracy," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 88702, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    2. Stephen Morris, 2001. "Political Correctness," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(2), pages 231-265, April.
    3. Peter Groothuis & John Whitehead, 2002. "Does don't know mean no? Analysis of 'don't know' responses in dichotomous choice contingent valuation questions," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(15), pages 1935-1940.
    4. Patricia Funk & Christina Gathmann, 2015. "Gender gaps in policy making: evidence from direct democracy in Switzerland," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 30(81), pages 141-181.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ahlfeldt, Gabriel M. & Maennig, Wolfgang & Mueller, Steffen Q., 2018. "The generation gap in direct democracy," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 88702, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    age; cohort; direct democracy; generation gap; status quo; referendum; reform; utility;

    JEL classification:

    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
    • H3 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents

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