The Swiss Election Study (Selects) have been investigating the electoral behaviour of Swiss citizens in national elections since 1995. The project sheds light on the dynamics of the citizens’ opinion formation as well as on the determinants of their political participation and voting choice for a specific candidate or party. In addition, it collects survey data on the candidates’ campaign activities, policy positions and views on representation. Since its launch in 1995, Selects has generated a series of datasets enabling long-term comparisons while constantly incorporating innovative new research questions. Selects is funded by the SNSF and has been centred at FORS since 2008.
Selects in a nutshell
Swiss national parliamentary elections are frequently considered to be “low salience” elections. Thus, for a long time, interest in national elections was rather limited – not only on the part of the Swiss electorate (turnout between 1971 and 2015 has mostly remained under 50%), but also on the part of academic electoral research: No election survey was conducted until the early 1970s. It was probably the growing polarisation of Swiss politics and the rise of the populist right in the early 1990s that resulted in a new surge of interest in federal elections.

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.

International research network
At the international level, Selects is part of two major international comparative projects:

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.

Structure and funding

Selects is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and directed by the “Political Surveys” team at FORS. Under the lead of Prof. Dr. Anke Tresch, the Political Surveys team performs the following tasks:

  • 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.

Commission

The Selects Commission guarantees strong links of Selects with the Swiss research community and authorities involved in elections. The commission is mandated by the FORS Foundation Board. According to its mandate, the mission of the Commission is to guarantee the quality of electoral research in Switzerland and to strengthen the electoral research network at Swiss universities and with the authorities involved in elections.

Members

  • President: 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)
  • Dr. Peter Moser (Statistical Office of the Canton of Zurich)
  • Prof. Dr. Pascal Sciarini (University of Geneva, Department of Political Science and International Relations)
  • Madeleine Schneider (Federal Statistical Office)
  • Prof. Dr. Isabelle Stadelmann-Steffen (University of Bern, Institute of Political Science)
  • Prof. Dr. Alexander H. Trechsel (University of Lucerne, Department of Political Science)

Project Director

  • Prof. Dr. Anke Tresch (FORS, University of Lausanne)

Secretary

  • Denise Bloch (FORS)

Methods
Selects is considered a research project of national importance to Switzerland. Therefore, since 2011, a sample of individuals representing the country’s population with the right to vote aged 18 and above has been drawn randomly from the sampling register of the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, in accordance with Art. 13c, para. 2, lett. d of the Ordinance on the Execution of Federal Statistical Surveys dated 30 June 1993.

Sample construction

Voters’ side

Candidates’ side

Data collection

Voters’ side

Candidates' side

Topics and questionnaires
Every four years, in addition to the core questionnaire, Selects incorporates new thematic modules that are of particular interest to researchers, while maintaining the necessary continuity to enable comparisons with previous waves.

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.

Voters’ side

Candidates’ side

Get data
Questionnaires, codebooks, technical reports and the data of the Selects Swiss Election Study are deposited at the Swiss Foundation for Research in Social Sciences FORS.

The online datasets can be downloaded free of charge from FORSbase or from the FORS Nesstar server.

The FORS Nesstar server offers the possibility to browse the data (e.g. to view the detailed distribution of each variable and question wordings) without registration. However, online analyses and data downloads are only possible for users with a FORSbase account.

The Swiss data that is provided to the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) is available via the CSES webpage.

Download data and documentation

Publications

Selects brochures

Selects 2015

                   

Selects 2011

                   

Selects 2007

                   

Other publications

The 2011 Swiss Elections. Romain Lachat, Georg Lutz and Isabelle Stadelmann-Steffen (eds.). 2014. Swiss Political Science Review 20(4).

The Swiss National Elections 2007. Georg Lutz, Thomas Milic and Marco Steenbergen (eds.). 2010. Swiss Political Science Review 16(3).
Summary of the publication (in German)