Public Choice

, Volume 119, Issue 1–2, pp 31–59 | Cite as

Are Voters Better Informed When They Have a Larger Say in Politics? – Evidence for the European Union and Switzerland

  • Matthias Benz
  • Alois Stutzer


Public choice theory takes citizens as rationally ignorantabout political issues, because the costs of being informedgreatly exceed the utility individuals derive from it. Thecosts of information (supply side) as well as the utility ofinformation (demand side), however, can vary substantiallydepending on the political system under which citizens live.Using survey data from the European Union and Switzerland, wepresent empirical evidence that citizens are politicallybetter informed when they have more extended politicalparticipation rights. The results corroborate theoreticalarguments and circumstantial evidence that voter informationshould be treated as endogenously determined by politicalinstitutions.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Barber, B.R. (1984). Strong democracy: Participatory politics for a new age. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bohnet, I. and Frey, B.S. (1994). Direct-democratic rules: The role of discussion. Kyklos 47: 341–354.Google Scholar
  3. Bowler, S. and Donovan, T. (1998). Demanding choices: Opinion, voting, and direct democracy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  4. Christin, T., Hug, S. and Sciarini, P. (2002). Interests and information in referendum voting: An analysis of Swiss voters. European Journal of Political Research forthcoming.Google Scholar
  5. Cronin, T.E. (1989). Direct democracy: The politics of initiative, referendum and recall. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Delgrande, M., Farago, P., Klöti, U., Kriesi, H., Linder, W., Nabholz, R., Schloeth, D. and Wernli, B. (1995). Eidgenössische Wahlen 1995: Befragung der Wählerinnen und Wähler nach den Wahlen — 1995. Université de Genève.Google Scholar
  7. Downs, A. (1957). An economic theory of democracy. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  8. Dryzek, J.S. (1990). Discursive democracy: Politics, policy and political science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Eichenberger, R. (1999). Mit direkter Demokratie zu besserer Wirtschafts-und Finanzpolitik: Theorie und Empirie. In: H.H. von Arnim (Ed.), Adäquate Institutionen: Voraussetzung für “gute” und bürgernahe Politik? Schriftenreihe der Hochschule Speyer. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot.Google Scholar
  10. Fishkin, J.S. (1991). Democracy and deliberation: New directions for democratic reform. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Frey, B.S. (1994). Direct democracy: Politico-economic lessons from Swiss experience. American Economic Review 84: 338–348.Google Scholar
  12. Frey, B.S. and Stutzer, A. (2000). Happiness, economy and institutions. Economic Journal 110: 918–938.Google Scholar
  13. Hirschman, A.O. (1989). Having opinions: One of the elements of well-being? American Economic Review 79: 75–79.Google Scholar
  14. Kirchgässner, G., Feld, L. and Savioz, M.R. (1999). Die direkte Demokratie: Modern, erfolgreich, entwicklungs-und exportfähig. Basel et al.: Helbing and Lichtenhahn/Vahlen/Beck.Google Scholar
  15. Kölz, A. (1998). Der Weg der Schweiz zum modernen Bundesstaat. Historische Abhandlungen. Chur and Zurich: Rüegger.Google Scholar
  16. Küttel, D. and Kugler, P. (2001). Explaining yield spreads of Swiss Canton bonds: An empirical investigation. Working Paper. University of Basel.Google Scholar
  17. Lupia, A. (1994). Shortcuts versus encyclopedias: Information and voting behavior in California Insurance Reform Elections. American Political Science Review 88: 63–76.Google Scholar
  18. Lupia, A. (2002). What we should know: Can ordinary citizens make extraordinary choices? In: P. Martin and R. Nadeau (Eds.), Making big choices: Individual opinion formation and societal choice. Forthcoming.Google Scholar
  19. Lupia, A. and McCubbins, M. (1998). The democratic dilemma: Can citizens learn what they need to know? New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Mansbridge, J. (1983). Beyond adversary democracy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  21. Matsusaka, J.G. (1995). Explaining voter turnout patterns: An information theory. Public Choice 84: 91–117.Google Scholar
  22. Moulton, B.R. (1990). An illustration of a pitfall in estimating the effects of aggregate variables on micro units. Review of Economics and Statistics 72: 334–338.Google Scholar
  23. Nannestad, P. and Paldam, M. (1994). The VP-function: A survey of the literature on vote and popularity functions after 25 years. Public Choice 79: 213–245.Google Scholar
  24. Pateman, C. (1970). Participation and democratic theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Popkin, S.L. (1991). The reasoning voter: Communication and persuasion in presidential campaigns. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  26. Reif, K. and Marlier, E. (1996). Eurobarometer 44.2bis mega-survey: Policies and practices in building Europe and the European Union. January–March 1996. [computer file]. Zentralarchiv für empirische Sozialforschung, Köln [distributor, file ZA2828].Google Scholar
  27. Schaltegger, C. and Feld, L. (2001). On government centralization and budget referendums: Evidence from Switzerland. CESifo Working Paper No. 615.Google Scholar
  28. Schneider, F. (1985). Der Einfluss der Interessengruppen auf die Wirtschaftspolitik: Eine empirische Untersuchung für die Schweiz. Bern: Haupt.Google Scholar
  29. Scholz, E. and Schmitt, H. (2001). The Mannheim Eurobarometer trend file 1970–1999. Zentralarchiv für empirische Sozialforschung, Köln [distributor, file ZA3521].Google Scholar
  30. Stutzer, A. (1999). Demokratieindizes für die Kantone der Schweiz. Working Paper No. 23. Institute for Empirical Research in Economics. University of Zürich.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthias Benz
    • 1
  • Alois Stutzer
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Empirical Research in EconomicsUniversity of ZürichZürichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute for Empirical Research in EconomicsUniversity of ZürichZürichSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations