The Standing Group on Democratic Innovations has decided to give the Best Paper Award at the General Conference in Hamburg 2018 to Céline Colombo from the University of Zurich for her paper “Principles or Pragmatism? Morality Politics in Direct Democracy.”
In the paper, Céline builds on her previous research published in the British Journal of Political Science in which she challenged the perception that citizens lack political sophistication to make informed decisions on policy matters. Using novel data, she demonstrated that a large number of Swiss voters can provide policy-relevant justifications for their choices in referendum votes.
She finds that citizens are equally likely to offer pragmatic and principled justifications regardless of the issue, whether it is immigration or economic redistribution. What drives the type of justification citizens offer are the character of the campaign (e.g. if the pro-side makes pragmatist arguments, then voters tend to make pragmatist arguments) and the personal characteristics of the voter (e.g. if an issue is personality relevant, principled justifications are offered. Pragmatic attitudes are more likely when opposing an issue).
Céline’s paper sheds new light on opinion formation and invites readers to reflect on the relationship between deliberative and direct democracy. Even though many great papers were put forward, the Selection Committee, consisting of the Section Chairs in Hamburg and the SG Convenors is unanimous in its decision. Céline was nominated by Micha German in the capacity of Panel Chair.
André Bächtiger, Convenor Kimmo Grönlund, Convenor
Nicole Curato, Section Chair Sofie Marien, Section Chair