Framing Effects in Referendums: Experimental Evidence

Sara Binzer Hobolt

in Europe in Question

Published in print May 2009 | ISBN: 9780199549948
Published online May 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191720451 | DOI:
Framing Effects in Referendums: Experimental Evidence

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The purpose of this chapter is to examine how different ‘frames’ influence individual vote choices in referendums. Framing effects occur when people's responses to an issue depend on how it is portrayed. Since referendums require voters to decide on issues that are often relatively unfamiliar, framing effects are generally very decisive. This chapter relies on survey experiments to examine two types of framing effects in two (hypothetical) referendums on joining the single currency and ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. First, it explores the influence of party endorsements on partisan and non‐partisan voters. Second, it examines the effect of describing different consequences of voting yes or no on vote choices. The findings show that government endorsements have a significant effect on attitudes towards referendum proposal, but that this effect is mediated by partisanship. Consequences frames also have a substantial effect: when negative consequences of the no‐vote are highlighted, people are more likely to favour a yes‐vote, whereas a negative emphasis on the consequences of the ballot proposal leads people to say no.

Keywords: consequences; elite cue; endorsement; euro; experiment; frames; framing effects; government; Lisbon Treaty; single currency

Chapter.  8167 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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