Davide Morisi (University of Vienna)

"Choosing the risky option: information and risk propensity in referendum campaigns"

Aula lignea

8 June 2018, 10:30 am


Direct democracy has enjoyed increased popularity worldwide. Despite the complexity of most of the issues subject to a direct-democratic vote, in referendum campaigns voters generally face a simple choice between an uncertain Yes for a change and a safer No for maintaining the status quo. Given this asymmetrical structure in terms of uncertainty, in this presentation I argue that individual dispositions towards taking risks play a crucial role in explaining vote choice in referendum campaigns. Analysis based on panel data and experimental data confirms that in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, in the 2016 Brexit referendum, and (to a lesser extent) in the 2016 Italian constitutional referendum, risk takers were more likely to vote for a change than risk-averse voters. However, risk propensity did not equally “matter” for the voting calculus of informed and uninformed individuals, since individual preferences for risk significantly influenced the voting decisions only of relatively uninformed voters. The implications of these findings extend beyond direct democracy, suggesting that risk preferences should be considered as a crucial determinant of general voting decisions under uncertainty. In addition, these results open future research avenues on the interplay between information and general personality traits, including risk propensity.

Davide Morisi is applying for the Assistant Professorship in Political Science.