6  Political topics

6.1 Comparing topic diversity in Switzerland/Liechtenstein with the rest of the world

Differentiating Switzerland and Liechtenstein in Figure 6.1 from the rest of the world, we find that the topics of their referendums have been much more diverse. Whereas the rest of the world held the overwhelming majority of referendums on state organisation, Switzerland and Liechtenstein have also been voting on that topic, but not only. Just as frequently, they have been voting on social policy, a bit less frequently on public finance, the economy and a host of other topics.

Figure 6.1: Frequency of top-tier political topics over time

(a) Switzerland and Liechtenstein

(b) rest of the world

6.2 Votes on policies and state organization by regime type

Differentiating the topics of referendums between votes on state organization and on policies and distinguishing between regime types in Figure 6.2, we find the following:

  • Over time, liberal democracies have held more votes on actual policies than on state organization, despite a peak in the latter in the 1990ies.
  • This trend is reversed and accentuated for electoral democracies, electoral autocracies and closed autocracies. Over time, these three regime types have held many more referendums on state organization than on actual policies.

These trends can lead us to conclude that voting on state organization is something countries do regularly, no matter their regime type, whereas almost only liberal democracies seem to be voting on policies.

Figure 6.2: Top-tier political topics dichotomy by regime type since 1900, without Switzerland and Liechtenstein

6.3 Topic segmentation

The interactive figures below show the topic lineage of referendums worldwide according to tier-1, tier-2 and tier-3 topics. Please note that several topics can be assigned to one referendum.

  • Click on the individual segments to explore the topic distribution.
  • Click on the center to return to the overall graph.

Figure 6.3 shows topic segmentation for all countries contained in the RDB.

Figure 6.3: Referendum topic segmentation (per ‘topic lineage’)

Figure 6.4 shows topic segmentation for all countries except Switzerland and Liechtenstein. As we can see, the share of referendums on state organisation increases greatly.

Figure 6.4: Referendum topic segmentation, excl. Switzerland and Liechtenstein (per ‘topic lineage’)

Figure 6.5 shows topic segmentation only for Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Topics vary much more than in the rest of the world.

Figure 6.5: Referendum topic segmentation in Switzerland and Liechtenstein only (per ‘topic lineage’)