Estimating preferences for the performing arts from referendum votes

  • Katharina E. HoferEmail author
Original Article


The value of the performing arts to the population can be elicited from referendum outcomes. The analyses typically rely on the (strong) assumption of full voter turnout. I show theoretically that when turnout is ignored, coefficients of variables related positively (negatively) to turnout yield upward (downward)-biased coefficients. For an empirical application, I use the example of a 2009 referendum in the Swiss canton of St.Gallen regarding the public financing of the local theater. Taking into account the turnout decision yields statistically but not economically different estimates. Bayesian model averaging suggests that income, old age, political orientation, and travel time to the theater are most closely related to the vote outcome. The analysis is complemented by comparing voter characteristics from post-ballot surveys with municipal characteristics. Voters tend to exhibit characteristics which are positive drivers of support for the referendum. This suggests that support for cultural spending among voters might be larger than among the overall population.


Public spending Referendum United voting theory Performing arts 

JEL Classification

Z110 Z180 H20 H40 



I am grateful for comments received from Niklas Potrafke and Lukas Schmid, as well as participants at the International Conference on Cultural Economics 2016 in Valladolid.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

The author declares that she has no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SEW-HSGUniversity of St.GallenSt.GallenSwitzerland

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