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Keywords:

  • Direct Democracy;
  • Switzerland;
  • Referendum Campaigns;
  • Political Knowledge

Since the early 1990s, new forms of referendum campaigns have emerged in the Swiss political arena. In this paper, we examine how referendum campaigns have transformed in Switzerland, focusing on a number of features: their intensity, duration and inclusiveness (i.e., the variety of actors involved). These features are assumed to change in the long run in response to societal changes and in the short run as a function of variations in elite support. We further argue that public knowledge of ballot issues depends on the characteristics of campaigns. To formally test our hypotheses, we draw on advertisement campaigns in six major Swiss newspapers in the four weeks preceding each ballot from 1981 to 1999 and develop a structural equation model. We indeed find that the duration of referendum campaigns has increased over time, while their inclusiveness has decreased. Most importantly, we find that pub­lic knowledge is strongly related to the characteristics of campaigns.