Political participation and public opinion

The debate regarding public opinion and forecasts of voter turnout are particularly prominent in the media prior to an immediately after elections and votes. The survey and analysis of the public opinion and political participation are also an important subject for political science when assessing the functioning of the political system. FORS is involved in this field of research primarily by conducting and evaluating population surveys in the wake of elections and votes, and by subsequently making the data available to other researchers. In addition, research in this area is also carried out at FORS itself, and FORS is a co-founder of the DeFacto platform, which makes research results accessible to a broad public.

Recent publications from FORS on political participation and public opinion

Scientific publications of FORS collaborators
Introduction to the Special Issue “The 2015 Swiss National Elections”Giger NathalieRennwald LineTresch Anke2018/12/10Swiss Political Science Review24 (4) pp. 371-380. [DOI]

Interest Group Support and Electoral Success in the Swiss Elections of 2015. A Candidate Survey AnalysisLutz GeorgMach AndréPrimavesi Riccardo2018/12/10Swiss Political Science Review24 (4) pp. 487–509. Peer-reviewed. [DOI]

Who Holds Populist Attitudes? Evidence from SwitzerlandBernhard LaurentHänggli Regula2018/12Swiss Political Science Review24 (4) pp. 510-524. [DOI]

The (In)stability of Voters’ Perceptions of Competence and Associative Issue Ownership: The Role of Media Campaign CoverageTresch AnkeFeddersen Alexandra2018/11/30Political Communication pp. 1-18. Peer-reviewed. [DOI]

The link between separation and political party preference: selectivity or causal influence?Voorpostel MariekeCoffe HildeKuhn Ursina2018/11/19Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties pp. 1-22. Peer-reviewed. [DOI]

Lassen sich in der direkten Demokratie die BürgerInnen in ihrem Stimmentscheid durch die Medienberichterstattung beeinflussen? Bernhard Laurent2018/04/09. pp. 89-102 dans Medien und direkte DemokratieSchulthess Verlag.

Biographical Consequences of Activism, Passy FlorenceMonsch Gian-Andrea2018. dans The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Social MovementsDavid A. Snow, Sarah A. Soule, Hanspeter Kriesi, and Holly J. McCammon.

The political agenda-setting power of the media: The Europeanisation nexus, Sciarini Pascal, Tresch Anke Journal of European Public Policy pp. NA. Peer-reviewed. [DOI]

Electoral Competition in Europe’s New Tripolar Political Space : Class Voting for the Left, Centre-Right and Radical Right, Oesch Daniel, Rennwald Line, 2018. European Journal of Political Researchpp. 1-25. Peer-reviewed. [DOI]

Does Commitment Change Worldviews?, Monsch Gian-Andrea, Passy Florence, 2018. pp. 231-246 dans Tillmann Robin, Voorpostel Marieke, Farago Peter (eds.) Social Dynamics in Swiss Society, Springer International Publishing. [DOI]

Social Dynamics in Swiss Society. Empirical Studies Based on the Swiss Household Panel, Tillmann Robin, Voorpostel Marieke, Farago Peter, 2018., Springer International Publishing. [DOI]

Measuring Issue Ownership. A Comparative Question Wording Experiment, Lefevere Jonas, Stubager Rune, Walgrave Stefaan, Tresch Anke, 2017. Scandinavian Political Studies, 40 (1) pp. 120-131. Peer-reviewed. [DOI]

How parties’ issue emphasis strategies vary across communication channels. The 2009 regional election campaign in Belgium, Tresch, Anke; Lefevere, Jonas and Stefaan Walgrave, 2017. Acta Politica. [DOI]

Measuring Issue Ownership. A Comparative Question Wording Experiment, Lefevere, Jonas, Stubager, Rune, Walgrave, Stefaan and Anke Tresch, 2016. Scandinavian Political Studies. [DOI]

Eidgenössische Wahlen 2015. Wahlteilnahme und Wahlentscheid. Lausanne: Selects- FORS (also available in French and Italian). Lutz, Georg, 2016.

The Media as a Dual Mediator of the Political Agenda Setting Effect of Protest. A Longitudinal Study in Six West-European Countries, Vliegenthart, Rens; Walgrave, Stefaan; Wouters, Ruud; Hutter, Swen; Jennings, Will; Gava, Roy; Tresch, Anke; Varone, Frédéric; Grossman, Emiliano; Breunig, Christian; Brouard, Sylvain and Laura Chaqués Bonafont, 2016. Social Forces 95(2): 837-859.

Do the Media Set the Parliamentary Agenda? A Comparative Study in Seven Countries, Vliegenthart, Rens, Walgrave, Stefaan, Baumgartner, Frank R., Bevan, Shaun, Breunig, Christian, Brouard, Sylvain, Chaqués Bonafont, Laura, Grossman, Emiliano, Jennings, Will, Mortensen, Peter B., Palau, Anna, Sciarini, Pascal and Anke Tresch, 2016. European Journal of Political Research 55: 283-301.

The Conflation of Issue Ownership Measures with Position and Party Preference. A Question Wording Experiment, Walgrave, Stefaan, Van Camp, Kirsten, Lefevere, Jonas and Anke Tresch, 2016. Electoral Studies 42: 290-299.

Mind the Gap. Do Proportional Electoral Systems Foster a More Equal Representation of Women and Men, Poor and Rich ?, Bernauer J., Giger N., Rosset J., 2015. International Political Science Review, 36(1) pp. 78-98. Peer-reviewed. [DOI]

Representation of Political Opinions: Is the Structuring Pattern of Policy Preferences the Same For Citizens and Elites?, Kissau, Kathrin, Georg Lutz, and Jan Rosset, 2015.  In Marc Bühlmann and Jan Fivaz (eds). Political Representation – New Insights into Old Questions. Routledge.

Associative Issue Ownership as a Determinant of Voters’ Campaign Attention, Lefevere, Jonas, Tresch, Anke and Stefaan Walgrave, 2015. West European Politics 38(4): 888-908. [DOI]

Lone Fighters: Intraparty Competition, Interparty Competition, and Candidates’ Vote Seeking Efforts in Open-Ballot PR Election. Selb, Peter, and Georg Lutz, 2015. Electoral Studies 39, 329-337.

In Search of Political Influence. Outside Lobbying Behavior and Media Coverage of Social Movements, Interest Groups and Political Parties in six Western European Countries, Tresch, Anke and Manuel Fischer, 2015. International Political Science Review 36(4): 355-372. [DOI]

’Steal me if you can!’ The impact of campaign messages on associative issue ownership, Tresch, Anke, Lefevere, Jonas and Stefaan Walgrave (2015). Party Politics 21(2): 198-208. [DOI]

Issue Ownership: How the Public Links Parties to Issues and Why It Matters, Tresch, Anke, Lefevere, Jonas and Stefaan Walgrave, 2015. West European Politics 38(4): 755-932.

The Conceptualisation and Measurement of Issue Ownership, Walgrave, Stefaan, Tresch, Anke and Jonas Lefevere, 2015. West European Politics 38(4): 778-796. [DOI]

For all scientific publications by FORS collaborators see here.

VOTO-Studie zur eidgenössischen Volksabstimmung vom 25. November 2018, Thomas Milic, Alessandro Feller und Daniel Kübler unter Mitarbeit von Anke Tresch, Laurent Bernhard, Laura Scaperrotta und Lukas Lauener. Januar 2019.

VOTO-Studie zur eidgenössischen Volksabstimmung vom 23. September 2018, Anke Tres ch, Laurent Bernhard,Lukas Lauener und Laura Scaperrotta unter Mitarbeit von Thomas Milic und Georg Lutz. November 2018.

VOTO-Studie zur eidgenössischen Volksabstimmung vom 10. Juni 2018, Thomas Milic, Thomas Reiss und Daniel Kübler unter Mitarbeit von Anke Tresch, Laura Scaperrotta und Lukas Lauener, Juli 2018.

VOTO Studie zur eidgenössischen Volksabstimmung vom 4. März 2018, Anke Tresch, Lukas Lauener und Laura Scaperrotta unter Mitarbeit von Thomas Milic und Georg Lutz, April 2018.

VOTO Studie zur eidgenössischen Volksabstimmung vom 24. September 2017, Thomas Milic, Thomas Reiss und Daniel Kübler unter Mitarbeit von Anke Tresch, Laura Scaperrotta, Lukas Lauener, Georg Lutz und Oliver Lipps, November 2017.

VOTO Studie zur eidgenössischen Volksabstimmung vom 21. Mai 2017, Anke Tresch, Florence Lebert, Laura Scaperrotta und Lukas Lauener unter Mitarbeit von Thomas Milic, Georg Lutz und Oliver Lipps, Juli 2017.

VOTO Studie zur eidgenössischen Volksabstimmung vom 12. Februar 2017, Thomas Milic, Thomas Reiss und Daniel Kübler unter Mitarbeit von Georg Lutz, Florence Lebert, Oliver Lipps und Anke Tresch, März 2017.

VOTO Studie zur eidgenössischen Volksabstimmung vom 27. November 2016, Georg Lutz und Florence Lebert unter Mitarbeit von Daniel Kübler, Thomas Milic, Oliver Lipps, Januar 2017.

VOTO Studie zur eidgenössischen Volksabstimmung vom 25. September 2016, Thomas Milic, Daniel Kübler unter Mitarbeit von Georg Lutz, Florence Lebert, Oliver Lipps, November 2016.

Contributions to blogs, newspapers and other media
Engagement kann Weltanschauungen verändern (also available in French), Gian-Andrea Monsch, Florence Passy, Franziska Ehrler, 29.01.2019. DeFacto.

Comment l’agenda médiatique influence celui des parlementaires (also available in German), Sciarini PascalTresch Anke, 01.05.2018La vie économique : plateforme de politique économique 91 (5) pp. 54-55.

Das Vertrauen in Regierung und Parlament ist in der Schweiz hoch, was nicht selbstverständlich ist (also available in french). Franziska Ehrler, Lukas Lauener, Anke Tresch, 28.05.2018. Defacto.

Bundesräte gehen, wann es Ihnen passt (also available in French). Georg Lutz, 02.05.2018. Defacto.

Nein zu No Billag aus Angst vor Sendeschluss (also available in french). Anke Tresch, Lukas Lauener, Laura Scaperotta, 19.04.2018. Defacto.

Die Tessinerinnen und Tessiner vertrauen der Schweizer Regierung – auch ohne eigenen Bundesratssitz (also available in french and italian). Lukas Lauener, Franziska Ehrler, Anke Tresch. 14.09.2017. Defacto.

Atomausstiegsinitiative: Nein trotz klarer Ablehnung der Atomkraft (also available in french). Georg Lutz, Florence Lebert, Daniel Kübler, Thomas Milic, Oliver Lipps. 19.01.2017. Defacto.


This platform makes interesting results from university research and expert knowledge from Swiss political science as well as other social science and related disciplines available to an interested public. The contents of the platform help classify political and social events based on independent, scientific analysis. Although the articles published are short and easy to understand, they also meet scientific criteria such as transparency, comprehensibility of argumentation and analysis as well as differentiation.

Three major data sources for data on political participation and public opinion

The political surveys and projects managed at FORS offer you a wide range of data on public opinion and political participation:


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.


Following each federal vote, the VOTO studies the reasons why Swiss voters participate in popular votes on the federal level and explains their voting decisions. Funded by the Swiss Federal Chancellery, VOTO is a joint project of FORS and the Center for Democracy Studies Aarau (ZDA), in collaboration with the polling institute LINK. About eight weeks after the vote, all reports are published and anonymized data are made available for secondary analysis. Since autumn 2016, the VOTO surveys have replaced the former VOX analyses, which had been conducted since 1977 by gfs.bern and several Swiss universities. The most significant variables from the former VOX analyses have been standardized across time. FORS distributes this cumulative dataset, called VOXit.

CCS – Comparative Candidate Survey

The CCS is a joint multi-national project with the goal of collecting data on candidates running for national parliamentary elections in different countries using a common core questionnaire to allow for cross-country comparison. Data collection comprises surveys among candidates as well as relevant context information concerning the constituency of the candidate and the political system at large. FORS runs the survey in Switzerland as part of the Swiss Election Studies Selects. Since 2008, FORS is also responsible for the harmonization and archiving of data from all participating countries.

Other data sets containing data on political participation and public opinion

Furthermore you find data concerning public opinion and political participation in other surveys of FORS:
In addition to the data collected at FORS, FORSBASE offers you various data on public opinion and political participation. We especially recommend the following datasets:

Sicherheit: Trends in views on foreign, security and defence policy in Switzerland.