The Swiss Electoral Studies (Selects) has investigated the electoral behaviour of Swiss citizens in national elections since 1995. The project sheds light on the dynamics of citizens’ opinion formation as well as on the determinants of their political participation and vote choice for a specific candidate or party. In addition, it collects survey data on candidates’ campaign activities, policy positions and views on representation. Since its start in 1995, Selects has created a series of datasets allowing for long-term comparison while constantly including innovative new research questions. Selects is funded by the SNSF and the work is centered at FORS since 2008.
Selects in a nutshell
Swiss national parliamentary elections are frequently considered to be “low salience” elections. The interest in national elections has thus been rather limited for a long time – not only on the part of the Swiss electorate (turnout between 1971 and 2015 has mostly been under 50%), but also on the part of academic electoral research: No single election survey had been 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 generated a new surge of interest in federal elections.

The 1995 election constituted, in Peter Farago’s (1995) words, a “new start” in this respect, with the formation of the Swiss Electoral Studies (Selects) project, initially an association of the political science departments of the universities of Bern, Geneva and Zurich. 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, finally 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 vote intention/choice of Swiss citizens through 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 linkage between voters and elites. Finally, in media analyses, large 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 over the years 1971 to 2015, allowing long-term comparisons between Swiss elections.

International Research Network
At an 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 Selects 2019 questionnaire, and Selects also participated in the four previous rounds.

Selects is also part of the 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 team “Political surveys” 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 single Selects-data files and the longitudinal cumulative file;
  • Editing and revising of scientific reports.

Commission

The Selects commission guarantees the strong interconnection of Selects with the Swiss research community and other authorities related to elections. The commission is mandated by the Foundation Board of FORS. According to its mandate, the duty of the commission is to guarantee the quality of electoral research in Switzerland and to strengthen the network of electoral research in Swiss universities and other authorities concerned with 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 as a research project of national importance to Switzerland. Therefore, since 2011 a sample of individuals representing the country’s population aged 18 and above with the right to vote has been drawn randomly from the sampling register of the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, according to Art. 13c, para. 2, lett. d, order of 30th June 1993 regarding the implementation of federal statistical surveys.

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 includes new thematic modules of particular salience to researchers, while keeping the necessary continuity for comparison 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 data of the Swiss electoral studies Selects 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 makes it possible to browse the data (e.g. see the detailed distribution of each variable and question wordings) without registering. However, online analyses and data download are only possible for users with a FORSbase account.

Swiss data delivered to the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) is available through 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)