Hornig, Eike-Christian (2023): Patterns of Party Positioning in Referendums in Switzerland. In: Political Studies Review.


Parties play an important role in the study of direct democracy, but mainly as independent variables. To start investigating the way in which parties position themselves in referendums, a new framework is presented and tested for plausibility. As case study the complex but well observed case of Swiss Direct Democracy was chosen. First, a differentiated understanding of what a party position in a referendum process is leads to the identification of four different stages of positioning for Swiss parties. The main message of the theoretical framework is that positioning logics of different parties in one vote can be similar when there are underlying mechanisms applying to all parties. Four ideal type models of party positioning show how. To explore their plausibility, an original data set of 162 single positions of five Swiss political parties in 37 national referendums between 2015 and 2019 is compiled. Using qualitative methods, first results show that Swiss parties’ positioning in referendums is not as strongly dominated by policy as one could expect, given the strong polarization of the party system. In consequence, this demands for an update of our understanding of the interplay of direct democracy and political parties as a two-way channel.