In this article, we examine the impact of risk attitudes on vote choice in the context of a salient referendum with high levels of uncertainty about the consequences of the ballot proposal. Using data from a pre- and post-referendum panel survey conducted in the context of the 2014 independence referendum in Scotland, and a specific battery to measure attitudes to risk, we determine how these attitudes operate in such political contexts. We reach two main conclusions. First, risk attitudes have a direct effect on vote choice, even after controlling for alternative explanations of vote choice such as party identification and leaders’ evaluations. In the aggregate, the effect of risk attitudes on the vote choice contributes to the status quo bias found in referendums. Second, we find that information moderates the effect of risk attitudes on vote choice. Voters who are politically knowledgeable have a greater capacity to predict the consequences of political outcomes and, therefore, they are less affected by their risk attitudes when making their ballot choices.
- risk attitudes
- status quo bias