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What explains electoral turnout in Swiss municipalities?
Working paper de l'IDHEAP
Paper presented at the 5th ECPR General Conference in Potsdam, 10 to 12 September 2009
What explains the higher electoral turnout in some of the Swiss municipalities? Since there are important differences as far as size, socio-economic structure, importance, political systems and the prevailing political culture are concerned, the Swiss municipalities offer a laboratory-like field of research. Using aggregate level data from our own surveys and from official sources covering the whole country this paper investigates the determinants of voting turnout at the local level. It comes to the following conclusion: The level of electoral turnout in Swiss municipalities depends to an important extent on institutional variables. If the executive is elected in a citizens' assembly there are considerably fewer people participating than in elections at the polls. PR also has a positive effect on turnout, whereas it cannot be shown that having a local parliament leads to higher turnout (and thus to increased interest in politics). Another important variable is the size of a municipality. In smaller municipalities turnout is consistently higher than in bigger ones. As for the importance of Catholicism for turnout, our study confirms the findings of Freitag (2005) at the cantonal level. The Catholic milieu has a positive impact on participation
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