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Complex Ballot Propositions, Individual Voting Behavior, and Status quo Bias

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  • Zohal Hessami
  • Sven Resnjanskij

Abstract

One concern about direct democracy is that citizens may not be sufficiently competent to decide about complex policies. This may lead to exaggerated conservatism in the voting decision (status quo bias). To investigate how complexity affects individual voting behavior, we develop a novel measure of proposition complexity (using official pre-referendum booklets) and combine it with post-referendum survey data from Switzerland. Using Heckman selection estimations to account for endogenous variation in participation rates, we find that an increase in proposition complexity from the 10th to the 90th percentile would decrease voters' approval by 5.6 ppts, which is often decisive: an additional 12% of the propositions in our sample would be rejected.

Suggested Citation

  • Zohal Hessami & Sven Resnjanskij, 2018. "Complex Ballot Propositions, Individual Voting Behavior, and Status quo Bias," CESifo Working Paper Series 7276, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_7276
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    Cited by:

    1. Meier, Armando N. & Schmid, Lukas & Stutzer, Alois, 2019. "Rain, emotions and voting for the status quo," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 434-451.
    2. 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.
    3. Stutzer, Alois & Baltensperger, Michael & Meier, Armando N., 2018. "Overstrained Citizens?," Working papers 2018/25, Faculty of Business and Economics - University of Basel.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    voting behavior; proposition complexity; direct democracy; status quo bias; Heckman probit model;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation

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