Since 1977, a survey is carried out after each federal vote, offering insight into the voting of Swiss citizens. Up until June 2016 these surveys were carried out under the name of VOX. Beginning with the vote of autumn 2016 the surveys have renamed as “VOTO”. Having changed considerably over time, the most significant variables of the survey have been standardized. This project of standardization, named VoxIt, makes it possible to compare between all of the surveys. Through cumulative files containing every survey, VoxIt also makes it possible to run more global analyses.
From 1977 to 2016, VOX surveys have been conducted after each federal vote. These opinion surveys are conducted with representative samples of eligible voters and take place during the two or three weeks following the vote. In brief, the focus of these surveys is on the interest, motivation, and skills of citizens in matters relating to voting and politics in general. The principal points covered during interviews include: general political opinions and habits, political and social affinities, degree of knowledge of the items put to vote, the various aspects relating to the decision on how to vote on these items, how the individual’s opinion was formed and, finally, the individual’s evaluation of the importance of what is at stake with each item.
If you speak German, French, or Italian, consulting a questionnaire is a good way to get a more detailed idea of what the VOX surveys are about. For example, you could review the questionnaire concerning the vote of September 26, 2010: Questionnaire VOX 103: french, german, italian.
In addition, the technical manual accompanying the same survey is a good source of complementary information, first of all for this particular survey, but also for the VOX in general (at least for the latest ones). This document is however only available in German: Technischer Bericht VOX 103.
The data of the original VOX surveys are archived at FORS and are available via our FORSbase portal. As the data of the first 14 surveys are no longer readable by current software, available VOX surveys start with the VOX 15 dedicated to the vote of 14 June 1981 and end with the vote of 5 June 2016 (VOX 121). The VOTO surveys have taken over since the vote of 25 September 2016. It should be noted however that documentation is often rudimentary for the older VOX, since it is often limited to the questionnaires. Beginning with VOX 71, a technical manual completes the documentation. Because the VOX have not yet been systematically assessed, FORS disclaims any liability for errors that could be present in this material.
The VOTO project analyses, after each federal popular vote, the reasons why Swiss voters participated, and explains their decisions. Since fall 2016, the VOTO surveys have taken over from the VOX surveys. In order to ensure continuity, the essential questions asked in the VOX survey were included in the VOTO surveys. The first VOTO survey is dedicated to the vote of September 25, 2016. The publication presenting the main results of the analyses is freely accessible on the project site.
Standardised VoxIt Surveys
The standardized post-vote surveys are the result of the harmonization of the VOX surveys. The long history of these surveys made a large-scale standardization effort necessary so that comparisons between two very different VOX surveys could be possible. The VOTO surveys took over from the VOX and are also integrated into VoxIt.
The VoxIt data combines information from several sources into one file. First, the data integrates and harmonises the most significant variables in the post-vote surveys (VOX and VOTO). A second type of variable includes specific characteristics of votes and items (i.e. popular initiatives or referendums) such as the date of the vote, the results of each item, participation rates, slogans of the federal government and the principal political parties. Finally, the standardized surveys include a third type of variable, created specifically to synthesize certain data and/or to allow comparisons from across the whole range of the available surveys.
Scrutins and Projets
In the context of the post-vote VoxIt surveys, the terms “scrutin” and “projet” are specific to the standardized surveys. In brief, all data related to a federal voting weekend are called “scrutin”. The term “projet” refers to a subset of these data, organized in relation to one of the specific items of this vote.
As a general rule, a “scrutin” will therefore include as many “projets” as there were items in the vote data, but it is possible that some “projets” will only be partially covered. More specifically, the VoxIt offer, for each vote, data in two forms: a “scrutin” file dedicated to the vote as a whole and an individual “projet” file for each item submitted for a vote. The choice of file type is dependent on the analyses which the user would like to carry out.
The latest version of VoxIt is 8.0 and includes all available surveys concerning the federal votes up to VOX 117 (November 30, 2014). In total, 98 “scrutins” and 281 “projets” are now available in this version.
Access to the Data
Information and data from the standardized post-vote surveys is available free of charge. Type of access to the data is, however, determined according to file type.
Each scrutin or projet file can be consulted online via the Nesstar server. It is possible to access information on the frequencies of the variables and the original questions. It is also possible to carry out online analyses and download datasets, but this requires registration in FORSbase. The data files are available in eight different file formats.
The cumulative scrutin and projet files cannot be consulted online, but can be downloaded free of charge via NESSTAR with a login and password from a FORSbase account, and in a dozen different formats. The files are available in German and French, according to the language selected in the tool bar within NESSTAR, found on the top right.