The Context of the Campaigns

  • Hanspeter Kriesi
  • Laurent Bernhard
Part of the Challenges to Democracy in the 21st Century Series book series (CDC)


Direct-democratic campaigns take place in an institutional and issue-specific context. Political institutions define the rules of the game of the direct- democratic process, and as such they are, as Sniderman (2000: 69) points out, the ‘organizers of political choices’. They organize the choices for political and media actors, and for voters. They do so by imposing constraints and opportunities on the communication strategies of the strategic actors, which, at the same time, pre-structure the fundamental options available to voters. It is very important to keep in mind that, in politics, ‘citizens are presented with an organized set, or menu, of choices’ (Sniderman and Bullock 2004: 338). Direct-democratic choices under contemporary conditions do not differ in this respect from electoral choices in representative democracies. The format of the choice is given, and so are the alternatives on the menu from which citizens can choose. In this chapter, we present the specific institutional context of Swiss direct-democratic campaigns, the general structuration of the choice by the overall make-up of the systems of interest intermediation (parties, interest associations and the media), as well as the specific context of the three campaigns which constitute the object of our study. We begin with the institutional setting, and then move on to the intermediary systems and to our three campaigns. For the presentation of the campaigns, we proceed in three steps. First, we briefly introduce the stakes and the coalitional configurations involved in the respective policy domains. Next, we discuss the political processes that, in each case, have preceded and pre-structured the issue-specific campaigns. Finally, we situate the three campaigns within the context of all direct-democratic campaigns that have taken place at the federal level since the early 1980s, in order to provide the reader with a general idea of their representativeness for Swiss direct-democratic campaigns.


Direct Democracy Popular Vote Social Democratic Party Swiss Economy Popular Initiative 
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Copyright information

© Hanspeter Kriesi and Laurent Bernhard 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hanspeter Kriesi
  • Laurent Bernhard

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