1  Introduction to the RDB

The Referendum Database (RDB), formerly known as the c2d Referendum Database, is hosted by the Centre for Democracy Studies Aarau (ZDA) at the University of Zurich, an academic research centre dedicated to the study of democracy in Switzerland and around the world.

The RDB is dedicated to the documentation of referendum results at the national level on a global scale, and also at the cantonal level for Switzerland. It contains information on the institutions of direct democracy as well as on their use in the form of votes. RDB strives to become the most comprehensive empirical collection on referendums worldwide.

The RDB can be accessed here. Alternatively, the R package rdb is offered to access the database’s content directly.

1.1 History of the Referendum Database

From 1994 to 2007, the Referendum Database was built up and developed at the Centre for Research on Direct Democracy (c2d) at the Department of Constitutional Law of the University of Geneva. The centre brought together researchers in law, political science and sociology studying direct democracy as institutions and political practice. The c2d promoted research on direct democracy from a pluridisciplinary perspective and also provided information, advice and counselling on different aspects to public authorities (Auer and Bützer 2001).

The Referendum Database was originally funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) project Dynamique et actualité de la démocratie directe dans un Etat fédéral, grant no 39348 at the University of Geneva, directed by professors Andreas Auer and Hanspeter Kriesi. It was further developed with funds from the SNFS project La démocratie communale en Suisse: vue générale, institutions et expériences dans les villes 1990-2000, grant no 59366, and other projects.

In fall 2007, the Centre for Research on Direct Democracy and the Referendum Database were migrated to the Centre for Democracy Studies Aarau (ZDA) at the University of Zurich. There, the database was upgraded technically to ensure expandability and usability. Also, data on referendums in U.S. states was added to the database in cooperation with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) (ZDA 2009). In the following years, the database was further developed, extended and improved; for example by closing gaps in the data on voting results in the Swiss cantons or automating the coding of international voting results. In 2018, the database was completely redesigned and made available in a new format.

After these technical improvements, the main emphasis today is on the valorisation of existing data in the form of annual reports and academic publications. At the same time, we continue to improve the database and add further data, especially from votes at the subnational and local levels.

1.2 Acknowledgements

Many people were involved in the development, maintenance and expansion of the Referendum Database over the years. First and foremost, we would like to pay homage to the founders of the predecessor project, namely professors Andreas Auer, Jean-Daniel Delley and Hanspeter Kriesi, all working at the Centre for Research on Direct Democracy (c2d) at the University of Geneva at the time. In a first step, and under the lead of Alexander Trechsel, two databases were established, one for Swiss and one for international referendum vote results. These two databases were then merged into the current RDB by Uwe Serdült, Trechsel’s successor at the c2d and later at the ZDA.

Collaborators at the University of Geneva from 1993 to 2007 were in alphabetical order: Andreas Auer, Antje Beck, Marco Breitenmoser, Michael Bützer, Jean-Daniel Delley, Frédéric Esposito, Philippe Gerber, Sabine Haenni-Hildbrand, Guita Korvalian, Nicolas Kozuchowski, Reto Kreuzer, Hanspeter Kriesi, Claudio Mascotto, Jan Prince, Frank Schuler, Uwe Serdült, Alexander Trechsel, Nicolas von Arx, Tobias Zellweger, and Serge Zogg.

Collaborators at the Centre for Democracy Studies Aarau from 2007 until today in alphabetical order: Mayowa Alaye, Corsin Bisaz, Salim Brüggemann, Lukas Christen, Magdalena Despotov, Norina Frehner, Louis Gebistorf, Micha Germann, Andreas Glaser, Robin Gut, Joey Jüstrich, Daniel Kübler, Irina Lehner, Sarah Lüthold, Fernando Mendez, Beat Müller, Joel Probst, Gabriela Rohner, Liana Sala, Uwe Serdült, Evren Somer, Anastasyia Souslova, Andrin Walla, Yanina Welp, Jonathan Wheatley, and Jonas Wüthrich.