Public Choice

, Volume 135, Issue 3, pp 319-336

First online:

Supersized votes: ballot length, uncertainty, and choice in direct legislation elections

  • Peter SelbAffiliated withDepartment of Politics and Administration, University of Konstanz Email author 

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Voters in polities that make heavy use of direct democracy are frequently confronted with ballots that contain a multitude of propositions. Claims that direct legislation elections overwhelm voters with choices they are not competent to make should particularly apply to such demanding settings. Yet, evidence on the effects of lengthy ballots on voting behavior is scant. This study reviews theories of decision-making under uncertainty, and tests their predictions in a mixed heteroscedastic model of vote choice that is fitted to a unique collection of survey and contextual data on Swiss referendums. Increasing ballot length is demonstrated to interfere with the voters’ ability to translate their political preferences into consistent policy choices.


Direct legislation elections Heteroscedastic probit Multiple propositions Status quo bias Uncertainty Voting behavior


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