Working paper

Declining support for environmental policy? Applying economic voting models to referendums

This study examines the personal, institutional and macroeconomic determinants of individual votes on 36 environmental protection proposals put to vote over twenty-one years in Switzerland. It applies a hierarchical model allowing for heterogeneous voter motivations, such as economic considerations or following heuristic shortcuts. We confirm that the individual-level variables education, political afinity, car ownership and urbanity are important determinants of environmental votes. However, adding institutional and macroeconomic context variables on a second level significantly increases the proportion of variance explained. Cross-level interaction effects between motivation groups and institutional and macroeconomic variables confirm the validity of our motivation groups, i.e. favourable macro-economic conditions increase the approval rate of voters who emphasize the short-term economic impacts of the proposals. Finally, our analysis challenges the view of surveys that citizen support for environmental protection is declining in Switzerland.


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