This research project takes a comprehensive and in-depth look at citizens’ attitudes to federalism in the German Länder and Swiss Kantone, with the goal of gaining a better understanding of the conditions under which more or less federalism is demanded. Indeed, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought back long-standing criticism of federalism’s effectiveness both in Germany and Switzerland. However, knowledge on citizens’ attitudes to federalism is scarce (and often limited to some regions) despite the decisive legitimating role attitudes play when reforms of federalism (including centralising options) are debated.
Our project addresses this gap by mapping citizen attitudes to federalism both in Switzerland and Germany, explaining them on the basis of various individual-level, regional-level, and country-level factors, and conducting a detailed analysis of the malleability of citizen preferences for centralisation.
The project is divided into two subprojects: In the first subproject, we conceptualise several dimensions of attitudes to the federal division of powers and systematically analyse a number of factors that explain attitudes to federalism. In the second subproject, we study the nature of preferences for centralisation with the help of a vignette experiment, asking respondents to evaluate reform proposals on several issues that would involve a shift of responsibility from the regional to the national level.