Self-Interest or Solidarity? The Referendum on Fiscal Equalisation in Switzerland

Müller, Sean; Vatter, Adrian; Schmid, Charlie (2017). Self-Interest or Solidarity? The Referendum on Fiscal Equalisation in Switzerland. Statistics, Politics and Policy, 7(1-2), pp. 3-28. De Gruyter 10.1515/spp-2016-0003

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This article puts the self-interest hypothesis to an empirical test by analysing the 2004 referendum on fiscal equalisation in Switzerland. That vote put forth a series of reforms which created regional winners and loser in terms of having to pay or receiving unconditional funding. Although Switzerland is usually portrayed as a paradigmatic case in terms of inter-regional solidarity and national integration, we show that rational and selfish cost-benefit calculations strongly mattered for the end-result. We rely on a multi-level model with referendum and other data on more than 2700 municipalities and all 26 cantons. More broadly, our findings confirm that rational choice theory works well for voting on straightforward monetary issues with a clearly defined group of winners and losers. However, symbolic interests such as party strength and cultural predispositions against state intervention and in favour of subsidiarity also matter and need to be taken into account alongside.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Institute of Political Science

UniBE Contributor:

Müller, Sean, Vatter, Adrian


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 320 Political science




De Gruyter




Madleina Christina-Maria Ganzeboom

Date Deposited:

16 May 2018 07:45

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:12

Publisher DOI:



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