With the formation of the Swiss Election Study (Selects) project, initially an association of the political science departments of the universities of Bern, Geneva and Zurich, the 1995 election constituted, in Peter Farago’s (1995) words, a “new start” in this respect, Since then, large-scale surveys have been carried out within the framework of the Selects project for the federal elections of 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015, ultimately resulting in not only a consolidation but also in a massive expansion of electoral research in Switzerland.
At the level of voters, Selects enables researchers to study participation, political opinions and voting intention/choice of Swiss citizens based on large-scale post-election surveys and panel surveys. On the candidates’ side, Selects conducts candidate surveys, studying issues such as factors of electoral success or the links between voters and elites. Finally, within the framework of media analyses, vast amounts of data on the election campaign in the mass media are collected in order to put individual opinion formation processes into their information context. In addition to these data, Selects also created a cumulative dataset, spanning from 1971 to 2015, which enables long-term comparisons between Swiss elections.
The Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) is an international network of national election studies. CSES develops questionnaire modules, which can be integrated into post-election voter surveys. The fifth round of the CSES module will be integrated into the 2019 Selects questionnaire, and Selects also participated in the four previous rounds.
Selects is also part of the well-established network Comparative Candidates Survey (CCS), which conducts surveys among all candidates for national elections in participating countries. Switzerland has conducted this additional survey in every election year since 2007.
- General planning and organising of the components of the survey;
- Sample drawing;
- Development of the questionnaires and specific survey methods;
- Translation of the questionnaires into three national languages (French, German and Italian);
- Cleaning, documentation and processing of the individual Selects data files and the longitudinal cumulative file;
- Editing and revising of scientific reports.
- President: Prof. Dr. Isabelle Stadelmann-Steffen (University of Bern, Institute of Political Science)
- Prof. Dr. Romain Lachat (SciencesPo, Paris)
- Prof. Dr. Nathalie Giger (University of Geneva, Department of Political Science and International Relations)
- Prof. Dr. Silja Häusermann (University of Zurich, Department of Political Science)
- Prof. Dr. Georg Lutz (FORS, University of Lausanne)
- Prof. Dr. Anke Tresch (FORS, University of Lausanne)
- Dr. Lionel Marquis (University of Lausanne, Institute of Political, Historical and International Studies)
- Prof. Dr. Denise Traber (University of Basel, Department of Social Sciences)
- Dr. Thomas de Rocchi (Canton of St. Gallen, Political Rights Section)
- Prof. Dr. Pascal Sciarini (University of Geneva, Department of Political Science and International Relations)
- Madeleine Schneider (Federal Statistical Office)
- Prof. Dr. Alexander H. Trechsel (University of Lucerne, Department of Political Science)
- Prof. Dr. Anke Tresch (FORS, University of Lausanne)
- Denise Bloch (FORS)
For the post-electoral survey, the sample is stratified by canton, i.e. people are not randomly drawn across the whole of Switzerland, but randomly drawn in each of the 26 cantons. For small cantons, an oversampling is carried out in order to guarantee at least 80 respondents per canton, covering both voters and non-voters. In addition, in three cantons (Zurich, Geneva and Ticino), the samples were increased to 800 – 1,000 respondents.
For the panel survey, the sample is drawn randomly across Switzerland to form a national sample of around 8,000 people. The survey includes three waves during which the same people are invited to participate each time. Two waves are conducted before and another one after the federal elections in October. In order to study the stability and change of individual opinions, as well as the behaviour between elections, it is planned to continue the panel every year until the 2023 federal elections.
For the candidates’ survey, the population is defined and not random, since it includes all the candidates who stood for the election to the National Council and the Council of States. This survey is conducted after each federal election, regardless of whether the candidates were elected or not.
- The data collection is conducted through self-administered questionnaires (online/paper);
- The survey consists of a core questionnaire including additional thematic modules as part of the international project: “Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES)“;
- The net sample of this survey includes around 5,000 respondents.
- The data collection is carried out several times during the election year by means of self-administered questionnaires (online);
- The questionnaire varies from wave to wave;
- The net sample of the panel survey includes approximately 5,000 respondents.
- During the election year, data is collected on the associated election campaign content in the media.
- The data collection is carried out after the federal elections by means of self-administered questionnaires (online/paper);
- The survey consists of a core questionnaire, which is part of the international project “Comparative Candidates Survey (CCS)“;
- The census includes the full population of candidates running for election.
Social media analysis
- The data collection is conducted during the election campaign, gathering data from the candidates’ and parties’ public Facebook and Twitter accounts.
In addition, it should be noted that the various surveys are coordinated with each other. For example, questions related to attitudes towards certain political subjects are identical in the candidate survey and in the post-electoral survey, which makes it possible to compare the positions of candidates and citizens.
The post-electoral survey mainly focuses on two questions:
- Who participates in elections and why?
- Who votes for a certain party or candidate and why?
In addition, every four years, FORS offers researchers the possibility to add thematic modules to the questionnaire that are selected based on a peer review process (call for modules 2019). The submitted proposals are reviewed by the Selects Commission and subsequently compiled and adapted by the FORS Political Surveys team.
Thematic modules chosen based on a peer-review process include, for example:
- “Assessing welfare preferences and welfare priorities”,which examines the links between attitudes towards the welfare state and voting choice;
- “Attitudes towards immigrants and party choice in Switzerland”,studies the interplay between mobilisation of immigration issues by right-wing populists, attitudes towards immigrants and voting choices.
The panel survey of the Selects research project focuses on the following question:
- What is the citizens’ view on political parties and how does this view evolve during the election campaign?
This question aims at investigating the influence of campaign dynamics and postal voting on voting behaviour and on the opinion formation processes, as well as the importance of strategic considerations on voting choice as opposed to emotional campaign involvement.
Alongside the panel survey, the objective of the media analysis is to put individual opinion formation processes into their information context.
The candidates’ survey focuses primarily on the following question:
- To what extent do candidates conduct their own campaign and distinguish themselves from their party?
This question aims at studying the topic of individualisation during an election campaign. Among other things, the information gathered makes it possible to study the underlying factors of candidates’ electoral success, as well as issues such as representation and the links between voters and elites. To enable this, the study examines the use and impact of campaign tools in federal elections, attitudes towards democracy and the political careers of candidates.
Every four years FORS offers researchers the possibility to add thematic modules to the questionnaire, which are selected based on a peer review process (call for modules 2019). The submitted proposals are reviewed by the Selects Commission and subsequently compiled and adapted by the FORS Political Surveys team.
The Swiss data that is provided to the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) is available via the CSES webpage.
Download data and documentation
The (in)stability of voters’ perceptions of competence and associative issue ownership: The role of media coverage. Anke Tresch and Alexandra Feddersen (2018). Political Communication.
The 2011 Swiss Elections. Romain Lachat, Georg Lutz and Isabelle Stadelmann-Steffen (eds.). 2014. Swiss Political Science Review 20(4).