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International surveys

Participation in international surveys is an important aspect of social science research. Indeed, it is essential to be able to situate Switzerland in relation to other countries, as well as to allow researchers to participate in scientific dialogue at an international level. As such, FORS was charged with the responsibility of conducting international surveys in Switzerland. Four projects conducted by FORS currently offer measurement tools that provide comparative perspectives.

European Social Survey

The European Social Survey (ESS) has been conducted every two years since 2001, in Switzerland as well as in 30 European countries. This survey is composed of a repeating stable core of questions. Thematic modules of questions take place around this core. One goal of the project is to attain excellence in methodology, as much from the viewpoint of population representation as of national comparability. Thus, emphasis is placed on sampling precision and translation quality. A representative sample of 1,500 individuals allows measurement and comparison of the longterm evolution of values, attitudes, and practices of the population. The results are freely available.


The survey MOSAiCH-ISSP is a project at the heart of which is the International Social Survey Program (ISSP). Initiated over 20 years ago, the ISSP is conducted in over 40 countries in the world. Each edition of the ISSP covers a specific theme, which is taken up at regular intervals. In Switzerland, until 1999, a module of questions from the ISSP was inserted into preexisting research projects. From 2000 to 2003, the ISSP was linked to the Eurobarometer, a survey covering politics and living conditions in the European Union and in Switzerland. When the Eurobarometer was discontinued in 2005, it was the project MOSAiCH that adopted the ISSP every two years. There are therefore at each edition two ISSP modules, one module of demographic questions, and a second recommended by the Swiss research team that is responsible for the MOSAiCH survey.


The Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), initiated in 2002, is the first multidisciplinary survey in Europe on the health, retirement, and financial conditions of people over 50. Inspired by similar surveys conducted in the United States (HRS, Health and Retirement Survey) and in Great Britain (ELSA, English Longitudinal Study of Ageing), SHARE covers various themes like health, the use of healthcare, work, family ties, consumption, housing, and revenue and savings. In short, SHARE paints an emerging portrait of an aging Europe and fills an important gap in the available databases in Europe on older people.

European Values Study

FORS also conducts the European Values Survey (EVS). This European survey on values is realized every nine years. Switzerland, which had participated in 1990, conducted the survey again in 2008 under the direction of FORS. The data of this most recent administration is freely available to the public since 2010.

Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) and Comparative Candidate Survey (CCS)

At an international level, the Swiss Electoral Studies (Selects) are part of two major international comparative projects. The Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) is an international network of national election studies. The CSES is composed of three tightly linked parts: First, a common module of public opinion survey questions is included in each participant country’s post-election study. These “micro” level data include vote choice, candidate and party evaluations, current and retrospective economic evaluations, evaluation of the electoral system itself, in addition to standardized sociodemographic measures. Second, district level data are reported for each respondent, including electoral returns, turnout, and the number of candidates. Finally, system or “macro” level data report aggregate electoral returns, electoral rules and formulas, and regime characteristics. This design allows researchers to conduct cross-level, as well as cross-national analyses, addressing the effects of electoral institutions on citizens’ attitudes and behavior, the presence and nature of social and political cleavages, and the evaluation of democratic institutions across different political regimes. The third round of the CSES module has been integrated in Selects 2007 questionnaire and Selects has also participated in the two previous rounds.

Selects is also part of the newly established network Comparative Candidate Survey (CCS) which conducts surveys among all candidates for national elections in participating countries. The CCS is an internationally coordinated effort. It combines an internationally agreed and locally adapted core questionnaire with questions that try to capture national and election specifics. The core candidate questionnaire specifically focuses at the issue of individualization of electoral campaigns, i.e. the empirical question to which extent the candidates run their own campaigns distinct from those of their parties. Switzerland has conducted this additional survey for the first time in 2007 in collaboration with smartvote.