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

46 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2019

See all articles by Zohal Hessami

Zohal Hessami

University of Konstanz, Department of Economics

Sven Resnjanskij

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) - Ifo Institute; Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU)

Date Written: 2018

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.

Keywords: voting behavior, proposition complexity, direct democracy, status quo bias, Heckman probit model

JEL Classification: D720, D780

Suggested Citation

Hessami, Zohal and Resnjanskij, Sven, Complex Ballot Propositions, Individual Voting Behavior, and Status Quo Bias (2018). CESifo Working Paper No. 7276, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3338601

Zohal Hessami (Contact Author)

University of Konstanz, Department of Economics ( email )

Box 138
Konstanz, 78457
Germany

Sven Resnjanskij

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) - Ifo Institute ( email )

Dresden Branch
Einsteinstra├če 3
Dresden, 01069
Germany

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) ( email )

Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1
Munich, DE Bavaria 80539
Germany

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