Discussion paper

DP13449 The generation gap in direct democracy

We provide the first systematic documentation and analysis of a generation gap in direct democracy outcomes across a wide range of topics using postelection survey data covering more than 300 Swiss referenda and four decades. We find that young voters are more likely to support reform projects that are politically liberal, support the young, or protect the environment. We separate age and cohort effects without imposing functional form constraints using a panel rank regression approach. The aging effect on political orientation is robust for con-trolling for arbitrary cohort effects and appears to be driven by expected utility maximization and not by habitu-ation-induced status-quo bias. In Switzerland, population ageing is already affecting direct democracy outcomes. Five referenda since 2004 would have had a different outcome, had the population distribution remained at 1981 levels.


Ahlfeldt, G, W Maennig and S Mueller (2019), ‘DP13449 The generation gap in direct democracy‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 13449. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp13449