Skip to main content

Advertisement

Partisan Campaigning and Initiative Petition Signing in Direct Democracies

Article metrics

Summary

This paper investigates whether popular initiatives signed by a larger share of the population have higher acceptance rates at the subsequent vote. The main analysis is based on all Swiss federal initiatives voted between 1978 and 2000 with a panel of aggregate voting data at cantonal level. The results suggest that petition signing is positively and significantly related to acceptance rates at ballot. I address potential omitted variable bias from underlying preferences which might be driving both signatures and acceptance rates in three ways. First, the panel structure of the data allows to control for time-constant preferences via fixed effects. Second, results are robust to various proxies for voter preferences. Third, using the doubling of the signature requirement in 1978 as an instrumental variable confirms the above result. The findings imply that petition signing can serve as an effective partisan campaigning tool.

References

  1. Ansolabehere, Stephen, Shanto Iyengar, Adam Simon, and Nicholas Valentino (1994), “Does Attack Advertising Demobilize the Electorate?”, American Political Science Review, 88(04), pp. 829–838.

  2. Barankay, Iwan, Pascal Sciarini, and Alexander H. Trechsel (2003), “Institutional Openness and the Use of Referendums and Popular Initiatives: Evidence from Swiss Cantons”, Swiss Political Science Review, 9(1), pp. 169–199.

  3. Bochsler, Daniel (2010), “The Marquis de Condorcet Goes to Bern”, Public Choice, (144), pp. 119–131.

  4. Boehmke, Frederick J., and R. Michael Alvarez (2014), The Influence of Initiative Signature Gathering Campaigns on Political Participation.

  5. Cameron, A. Colin, Jonah B. Gelbach, and Douglas L. Miller (2008), “Bootstrap-Based Improvements for Inference with Clustered Errors”, Review of Economics and Statistics, 90(3), pp. 414–427.

  6. Center for Governmental Studies (2008), Democracy by Initiative: Shaping California’s Fourth Branch of Government, 2nd edn., Los Angeles: Center for Governmental Studies.

  7. Dale, Allison, and Aaron Strauss (2009), “Don’t Forget to Vote: Text Message Reminders as a Mobilization Tool”, American Journal of Political Science, 53(4), pp. 787–804.

  8. Degan, Arianna, and Antonio Merlo (2011), “A Structural Model of Turnout and Voting in Multiple Elections”, Journal of the European Economic Association, 9(2), pp. 209–245.

  9. Degen, Bernard (2015), “Volksinitiative”, in Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz, Bern: Stiftung Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz.

  10. Downs, Anthony (1957), An Economic Theory of Democracy, New York: Harper and Brothers.

  11. Dyck, Joshua J., and 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, 91(1), pp. 189–208.

  12. Feld, Lars P., and John Matsusaka (2003), “Budget Referendums and Government Spending: Evidence from Swiss Cantons”, Journal of Public Economics, (87), pp. 2703–2724.

  13. Festinger, Leon (1957), A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

  14. Funk, Patricia (2010), “Social Incentives and Voter Turnout: Evidence from the Swiss Mail Ballot System”, Journal of the European Economic Association, 8(5), pp. 1077–1103.

  15. Funk, Patricia, and Christina Gathmann (2011), “Does Direct Democracy Reduce the Size of Government? New Evidence from Historical Data, 1890–2000”, The Economic Journal, pp. 1–29.

  16. Gerber, Alan S., and Donald P. Green (2000a), “The Effects of Canvassing, Telephone Calls, and Direct Mail on Voter Turnout: A Field Experiment”, American Political Science Review, 94(3), pp. 653–663.

  17. Gerber, Alan S., and Donald P. Green (2000b), “The Effect of a Nonpartisan Get-Out-The-Vote Drive: An Experimental Study of Leafletting”, Journal of Politics, 62(3), pp. 846–857.

  18. Gerber, Alan S., and Donald P. Green (2001), “Do Phone Calls Increase Voter Turnout? A Field Experiment”, The Public Opinion Quarterly, 65(1), pp. 75–85.

  19. Gerber, Alan S., Donald P. Green, and Matthew Green (2003), “Partisan Mail and Voter Turnout: Results from Randomized Field Experiments”, Electoral Studies, 22(4), pp. 563–579.

  20. Green, Donald P, Alan S. Gerber, and David W. Nickerson (2003), “Getting Out the Vote in Local Elections: Results from Six Door-to-Door Canvassing Experiments”, Political Science, 65(4), pp. 1083–1096.

  21. Hodler, Roland, Simon Lüchinger, and Alois Stutzer (2015), “The Effects of Voting Costs on the Democratic Process and Public Finances”, American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 7(1), pp. 141–171.

  22. Hofer, Katharina E., Christian Marti, and Monika Bütler (forthcoming), “Ready to Reform: How Popular Initiatives Can Be Successful”, European Journal of Political Economy.

  23. Kendall, Chad, Tommaso Nannicini, and Francesco Trebbi (2015), “How Do Voters Respond to Information? Evidence from a Randomized Campaign”, American Economic Review, 105(1), pp. 322–353.

  24. Kriesi, Hanspeter (1995), “The Political Opportunity Structure of New Social Movements: Its Impact on Their Mobilization”, in The Politics of Social Protest, Comparative Perspectives on States and Social Movements, J. Craig Jenkins and Bert Klandermans, eds., pp. 167–198, Minneapolis MN: University of Minnesota Press.

  25. Kriesi, Hanspeter (2006), “Role of the Political Elite in Swiss Direct-Democratic Votes”, Party Politics, 12(5), pp. 599–622.

  26. Kriesi, Hanspeter, and Alexander H. Trechsel (2008), The Politics of Switzerland: Continuity and Change in a Consensus Democracy, New York: Cambridge University Press.

  27. Lacey, Robert J. (2005), “The Electoral Allure of Direct Democracy: The Effect of Initiative Salience on Voting”, State Politics and Policy Quarterly, 5(2), pp. 168–181.

  28. Linder, Wolf (2007), “Direct Democracy”, in Handbook of Swiss Politics, Ulrich Kloeti, Peter Knoepfel, Hanspeter Kriesi, Wolf Linder, Yannis Papadopoulos, and Pascal Sciarini, eds., pp. 101–120, Zurich: Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

  29. Lüchinger, Simon, Myra Rosinger, and Alois Stutzer (2007), “The Impact of Postal Voting on Participation: Evidence from Switzerland”, Swiss Political Science Review, 13(2), pp. 167–202.

  30. Malde, Bansi (2012), “Bootwildct, ado file for Stata”, Economic and Social Research Council.

  31. Matsusaka, John G. (1995), “Explaining Voter Turnout Patterns: An Information Theory”, Public Choice, 84, pp. 91–117.

  32. McFadden, Daniel (1973), “Conditional logit analysis of qualitative choice behavior”, in Frontiers in econometrics, P. Zerembka, ed., pp. 105–142, New York: Academic Press.

  33. McFadden, Daniel (1980), “Econometric models for probabilistic choice among products”, Journal of Business, pp. S13–S29.

  34. Mills, Judson (1958), “Changing in Moral Attitudes Following Temptations”, Journal of Personality, (26), pp. 517–531.

  35. Mullainathan, Sendhil, and Ebonya Washington (2009), “Sticking with Your Vote: Cognitive Dissonance and Political Attitudes”, American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 1(1), pp. 86–111.

  36. Neiman, Max, and Mark Gottdiener (1982), “The Relevance of the Qualifying Stage of Initiative Politics: The Case of Petition Signing”, Social Science Quarterly, 63(3), pp. 582–588.

  37. Nickerson, David W (2006), “Volunteer Phone Calls Can Increase Turnout: Evidence from Eight Field Experiments”, American Politics Research, 34(3), pp. 271–292.

  38. Nickerson, David W (2008), “Is voting contagious? Evidence from Two Field Experiments”, American Political Science Review, 102(1), pp. 49–57.

  39. Niven, David (2004), “The Mobilization Solution? Face-to-Face Contact and Voter Turnout in a Municipal Election”, Journal of Politics, 66(3), pp. 868–884.

  40. Parry, Janine, Daniel Smith, and Shayne Henry (2012), “The Impact of Petition Signing on Voter Turnout”, Political Behavior, 34, pp. 117–136.

  41. Pierce, John C., and Nicholas P Lovrich (1982), “Survey Measurement of Political Participation: Selective Effects of Recall in Petition Signing”, Social Science, 63(1), pp. 164–171.

  42. Rielle, Yvan (2010), “Einschränkung der Volksrechte oder Anpassung ans Frauenstimmrecht?”, in Handbuch der eidgenössischen Volksabstimmungen 1848 bis 2007, Wolf Linder, Christian Bolliger, and Yvan Rielle, eds., pp. 364–365, Bern: Haupt Verlag.

  43. Schlozman, Daniel, and Ian Yohai (2008), “How Initiatives Don’t Always Make Citizens: Ballot Initiatives in the American States, 1978–2004”, Political behavior, 30, pp. 469–489.

  44. Smith, Daniel A., and Caroline J. Tolbert (2004), Educated by Initiative: The effects of Direct Democracy on Citizens and Political Organizations in the American States, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

  45. Smith, Mark A (2001), “The Contingent Effects of Ballot Initiatives and Candidate Races on Turnout”, American Journal of Political Science, 45(3), pp. 700–706.

  46. Tolbert, Caroline J., Daniel C. Bowen, and Todd Donovan (2009), “Initiative Campaigns: Direct Democracy and Voter Mobilization”, American Politics Research, 37(1), pp. 155–192.

  47. Tolbert, Caroline J., John A Grummel, and Daniel A. Smith (2001), “The Effects of Ballot Initiatives on Voter Turnout in the American States”, American Politics Research, 29, pp. 625–648.

  48. Tolbert, Caroline J., and Daniel A. Smith (2005), “The Educative Effects of Ballot Initiatives on Voter Turnout”, American Politics Research, 33(2), pp. 283–309.

  49. Wooldridge, Jeffrey M. (2013), Introductory Econometrics: A Modern Approach, South-Western / Cengage Learning.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to Katharina E. Hofer.

Additional information

Earlier versions of this paper have been circulated under the title “Campaigning in Direct Democracies: Initiative Petition Signing, Turnout, and Acceptance”. For valuable comments, I thank Monika Bütler, Patricia Funk, Christian Marti, Rebecca Morton, Lukas Schmid, Andreas Steinmayr, the editor and an anonymous reviewer, as well as participants at the Sinergia Workshop of the Swiss National Science Foundation (February 2013, St. Gallen, Switzerland), the Annual Meeting of the Public Choice Society (March 2014, Charleston, USA), and the Electoral Integrity Pre-IPSA Workshop (July 2014, Montreal, Canada). I appreciate helpful input by the discussants Florian Chatagny and Patrick Fournier. I am grateful for support by the Sinergia Grant CRSIIl_l47668 and Grant P1SGP1_151992 of the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hofer, K.E. Partisan Campaigning and Initiative Petition Signing in Direct Democracies. Swiss J Economics Statistics 153, 261–291 (2017) doi:10.1007/BF03399509

Download citation

JEL-Classification

  • D72

Keyword

  • Initiatives
  • signatures
  • direct democracy
  • voting
  • campaigning