• negative campaigning;
  • turnout;
  • emotions;
  • direct democracy;
  • Switzerland


Using individual data on Swiss federal ballots (VOX data) and an original dataset on the evolution and content of political campaigns, this article elucidates how negative campaigning influences individual turnout during Swiss federal ballots. It hypothesises that the effect of negativism on turnout depends on ‘which camp goes dirty’ and, specifically, on the direction of the political campaign (‘status quo’ versus ‘policy change’ campaigns). A series of multilevel models provide strong support for the hypotheses, by showing that high negativism in ‘status quo campaigns’ decreases individual turnout, whereas high negativism for ‘policy change campaigns’ increases it. It is argued here that this could depend on the emotional responses triggered by negativism in political campaigns.