Political involvement and Direct Democracy

Political education and political participation

In Switzerland and beyond, increased attention has been paid to the ‘political apathy’ and the lack of political interest of young adults. It is thereby argued that the systematic underrepresentation of young citizens not only offends the democratic principle of equality but also implies that the interests of those bearing the future consequences of today’s political decisions are not adequately integrated in the political process.

In several research projects, some of them founded by the Federal Administration, Isabelle Stadelmann-Steffen and her team have been working on measuring and analyzing youth political involvement and attitudes. Most importantly, in 2013/14 the research group has collected a rich data set combining student and teacher survey data (in upper secondary education) with information on how political education is integrated into the respective teaching curricula.

Recent publications:

  • STADELMANN-STEFFEN, Isabelle and Linda SULZER (2018). „Just Another Brick in the Wall? The Relationship Between Classroom-Based Political Education and the Political Interest of Young Adults in Switzerland“, Journal of Youth Studies 21(4): 552-575.
  • KOLLER, Daniela (2016). Politische Partizipation und politische Bildung in der Schweiz. Eine empirische Untersuchung des Partizipationsverhaltens junger Erwachsener in der Schweiz. Dissertation, Universität Bern, unveröffentlicht.
  • STADELMANN-STEFFEN, Isabelle; KOLLER, Daniela und Linda SULZER (2016). Politische Bildung auf Sekundarstufe II. Eine Bilanz. Expertenbericht im Auftrag des Staatssekretariats für Bildung, Forschung und Innovation SBFI, Bern.
  • BEYELER, Michelle; BÜTIKOFER, Sarah and Isabelle STADELMANN-STEFFEN (2015). Wie hat es die junge Generation mit der Politik? Soziale Sicherheit CHSS 4: 235-240.
  • BEYELER, Michelle; BÜTIKOFER, Sarah and Isabelle STADELMANN-STEFFEN (2015). Ich und meine Schweiz. Befragung von 17-jährigen Jugendlichen in der Schweiz. Wissenschaftliches Begleitmandat im Auftrag der Eidgenössischen Kommission für Kinder- und Jugendfragen. Schlussbericht, Beiträge zur Sozialen Sicherheit, Forschungsbericht Nr. 13/15, Bern: Bundesamt für Sozialversicherung.

Direct democracy

In several publications, the functioning and consequences of direct democracy are being analyzed. While most studies mainly cover the Swiss case, more recently, we have broadened the focus to a comparative context. Moreover, in the context of an increasing number of European referendums on EU-issues, and the fact that populist parties across Europe have discovered direct democracy as a powerful campaign element, the interest in my expertise by the media, but also by international researchers or governments has increased.


  • DERMONT, Clau and Isabelle STADELMANN-STEFFEN (2019). “The role of policy and party information in direct-democratic campaigns”, International Journal of Public Opinion Research (forthcoming).
  • HEIDBREDER, Eva; STADELMANN-STEFFEN, Isabelle; THOMANN Eva and Fritz SAGER (2019). “EU Referendums in Context: What can we learn from the Swiss Case?”, Public Administration 97: 370–383, Symposium on Multilevel Governance (forthcoming).
  • LEEMANN, Lucas and Isabelle STADELMANN-STEFFEN (2019). “Subnational Direct Democracy and Democratic Satisfaction across National Borders“, paper presented at the SPSA Annual Conference 2019 & Dreiländertagung, Zurich (CH), February 2019.
  • STADELMANN-STEFFEN, Isabelle and Clau DERMONT (2016). How exclusive is assembly democracy? Citizens’ assembly and ballot participation compared, Swiss Political Science Review 22(1): 95-122.
  • STADELMANN-STEFFEN, Isabelle und Clau DERMONT (2015). ”Männer rund doppelt so häufig an Gemeindeversammlungen“, DeFacto, December 21, 2015, (http://www.defacto.expert)
  • STADELMANN-STEFFEN, Isabelle and Adrian VATTER (2012). “Does Satisfaction with Democracy Really Increase Happiness? Direct Democracy and Individual Satisfaction in Switzerland”, Political Behavior 34: 535-559.
  • FREITAG, Markus and Isabelle STADELMANN-STEFFEN (2010). “Stumbling Block or Stepping Stone? The Influence of Direct Democracy on Individual Participation in Parliamentary Elections”, Electoral Studies, 29(3), 472-483.