Choosing the Risky Option – Information and Risk Propensity in Referendum Campaigns

Davide Morisi, assistant professor at the Department of Government, University of Vienna has published his paper “Choosing the Risky Option – Information and Risk Propensity in Referendum Campaigns” in Public Opinion Quarterly. Part of the findings are based on data from experimental studies conducted in collaboration with CESS. You can read the abstract of the paper below.

In most referendum campaigns, voters face a 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, this study argues that individual dispositions toward taking risks play a crucial role in explaining support for referendum proposals. Panel data and two experimental studies provide empirical evidence that in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum and in the 2016 EU referendum in the UK, risk propensity significantly influenced voting behavior— specifically, that risk takers were more likely to vote for a change than risk-averse voters. However, risk propensity mattered less to informed voters than uninformed voters, since only the latter were influenced by risk preferences in their voting decisions. In addition, information affected mainly risk-averse voters, whose support for referendum proposals increased after reading a balanced set of pro and con arguments. The implications of this study extend beyond direct democracy and open up avenues of future research on the interplay between information and general personality traits, including risk propensity.

Find the paper here: