Political Behavior

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 237–260 | Cite as

Direct Democracy: Protest Catalyst or Protest Alternative?

  • Matthias Fatke
  • Markus Freitag
Original Paper


This paper presents the first investigation of whether direct democracy supplements or undermines the attendance of demonstrations as a form of protest behavior. A first approach assumes that direct democracy is associated with fewer protests, as they function as a valve that integrates voters’ opinions, preferences, and emotions into the political process. A competing hypothesis proposes a positive relationship between direct democracy and this unconventional form of political participation due to educative effects. Drawing on individual data from recent Swiss Electoral Studies, we apply multilevel analysis and estimate a hierarchical model of the effect of the presence as well as the use of direct democratic institutions on individual protest behavior. Our empirical findings suggest that the political opportunity of direct democracy is associated with a lower individual probability to attend demonstrations.


Direct democracy Protest behavior Political participation Educative effect 



A previous version of the article was presented at workshops in Tutzing, Salzburg, and Uppsala. We are grateful to the participants in the workshops and to Uwe Krahnenpohl, PerOla Öberg, Katrin Uba, Adrian Vatter and the three anonymous referees for their helpful comments and suggestions. Also, we would like to thank Birgit Jacob and Jennifer Shore for their assistance in preparing the final manuscript.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Political Science, University of BernBernSwitzerland

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