Infoscience

Journal article

'I pay enough taxes already!' Applying economic voting models to environmental referendums

Objectives. Models of economic voting have rarely been applied to referendum votes. We fill this gap by testing citizens’ voting behavior on environmental policy in relation to their perception of the business cycle. Thus, the study examines the personal, institutional and economic determinants of vote choice on 36 environmental bills from 1983 to 2004 in Switzerland. Methods. We apply a logistic hierarchical model, where individual characteristics on level-1 are nested within contextual determinants situated on level-2. Results. We confirm the crucial importance of the individual-level variables education, political affinity, car ownership and urbanity. Classifying the electorate into five groups using open-ended survey questions about respondents’ reasons for approval or dismissal of the bills allows for finer hypotheses testing. We show that the individuals’ positive perception of their personal current economic conditions has a positive effect on the likelihood of supporting the proposals. In turn, we prove the negative, constraining effect of deteriorating macroeconomic conditions on approval rates. Conclusions. By applying economic voting models to referendum analyses we advance the understanding of citizens’ vote choice on environmental ballots. As environmental politics is cost-intensive and often entails redistributive measures, this result corroborates common sense beliefs that it is paramount designing cost-neutral bills.

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