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Moral Politics: The Religious Factor in Referenda Voting

  • Carolin Rapp (a1), Richard Traunmüller (a2), Markus Freitag (a1) and Adrian Vatter (a1)


This article combines the research strands of moral politics and political behavior by focusing on the effect of individual and contextual religiosity on individual vote decisions in popular initiatives and public referenda concerning morally charged issues. We rely on a total of 13 surveys with 1,000 respondents each conducted after every referendum on moral policies in Switzerland between 1992 and 2012. Results based on cross-classified multilevel models show that religious behaving instead of nominal religious belonging plays a crucial role in decision making on moral issues. This supports the idea that the traditional confessional cleavage is replaced by a new religious cleavage that divides the religious from the secular. This newer cleavage is characterized by party alignments that extend from electoral to direct democratic voting behavior. Overall, our study lends support to previous findings drawn from American research on moral politics, direct democracies, and the public role of religion.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and request for reprints to: Carolin Rapp, University of Bern, Institute of Political Science, Fabrikstrasse 8, 3012 Bern, Switzerland. E-mail:; Richard Traunmüller, University of Essex, Department of Government, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester CO4 3SQ, United Kingdom. E-mail:; Markus Freitag, University of Bern, Institute of Political Science, Fabrikstrasse 8, 3012 Bern, Switzerland. E-mail:; Adrian Vatter, University of Bern, Institute of Political Science, Fabrikstrasse 8, 3012 Bern, Switzerland. E-mail:


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