Swiss national parliamentary elections are frequently considered "low salience" elections. On the one hand, the emphasis on direct democratic elements in the Swiss constitution provides citizens with extensive opportunities to exert institutionalized political influence beyond the parliamentary channel. On the other hand, shifts in political parties' electoral fortunes had not had any consequences for government composition between 1959 and 2003, due to an informal agreement called the "Zauberformel" (magic formula). 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 2019 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.
After two initial surveys in the wake of the 1971 (Sidjanski et al. 1975) and 1975 federal elections (Barnes and Kaase 1979), the 1979 election witnessed the launching of the first VOX survey realized by the Swiss Society for Applied Social Research (GfS) and the University of Bern (Hertig 1980). Thereafter, VOX surveys have accompanied the subsequent federal elections of 1983, 1987 and 1991, and a booklet has been published on each of them (Longchamp 1984, 1988; Longchamp and Hardmeier 1992). Although the VOX surveys could have laid the foundation of a Swiss national election study, these data collection efforts did not trigger many follow-up secondary analyses. Scholars interested in voting behaviour still focused much more on referendums and initiatives than on parliamentary elections – as did the VOX surveys.
It was probably the growing polarization 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 Election Study (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 (Farago 1996; Kriesi et al. 1998), 1999 (Hirter 2000; Sciarini et al. 2003), 2003 (Selb and Lachat 2004; Bühlmann et al. 2006), 2007 (Lutz 2008), 2011 (Lutz 2012), 2015 (Lutz 2016) and 2019 (Tresch et al. 2020), finally resulting in not only a consolidation but also in a massive expansion of electoral research in Switzerland.
One of the primary aims of Selects has been to systematically combine the new survey data with data collected by its precursor research projects. The fact that two complete data collections – those of the 1979 and 1983 VOX election surveys – were lost illustrates the importance of this task. In doing so, Selects has intended to provide a database that facilitates otherwise troublesome longitudinal studies of Swiss elections and voting behaviour (Lachat 2004; Trechsel 1995). The product of these efforts is presented here: A pooled set of Swiss election survey data which covers the period between 1971 and 2019 and includes most of the variables that have been included at least twice in the data collections.
Election Surveys Used:
All the available Swiss election surveys were used to build up this database. Each of them is separately archived and documented at DARISS:
Political Attitudes and Behaviour in Switzerland 1971/72, conducted by the Department of Political Science, University of Geneva (see https://forsbase.unil.ch/project/study-public-overview/13036/0/)
Political Attitudes in Switzerland 1975 (Political Action), conducted by the Department of Political Science, University of Geneva (see https://forsbase.unil.ch/project/study-public-overview/10710/0/)
National and Federal Council Elections 1979, conducted by the Department of Psychology, University of Zurich, on behalf of the Tages Anzeiger (see https://forsbase.unil.ch/project/study-public-overview/2551/0/)
National Elections 1987 (VOX), conducted by the Research Center for Swiss Politics, University of Bern, and GfS
National Elections 1991 (VOX), conducted by the Research Center for Swiss Politics, University of Bern, and GfS
Swiss Electoral Studies (Selects) 1995: Post-Election Survey, conducted by the Departments of Political Science, Universities of Bern, Geneva, and Zurich (see https://forsbase.unil.ch/project/study-public-overview/1993/0/)
Swiss Electoral Studies (Selects) 1999: Post-Election Survey, conducted by the Departments of Political Science, Universities of Bern, Geneva, and Zurich (see https://forsbase.unil.ch/project/study-public-overview/5937/0/)
Swiss Electoral Studies (Selects) 2003: Post-Election Survey, conducted by the Departments of Political Science, Universities of Bern, Geneva, St. Gall, and Zurich, DARIS and OVP/USTAT (see https://forsbase.unil.ch/project/study-public-overview/11328/0/)
Swiss Electoral Studies (Selects) 2007: Post-Election Survey, conducted by the Departments of Political Science, Universities of Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, St. Gall, and Zurich, FORS, OVP/USTAT, FSO and the Federal Chancellery (see https://forsbase.unil.ch/project/study-public-overview/8436/0/)
Swiss Electoral Studies (Selects) 2011: Post-Election Survey, conducted by FORS (see https://forsbase.unil.ch/project/study-public-overview/12631/0/)
Swiss Electoral Studies (Selects) 2015: Post-Election Survey, conducted by FORS (see https://forsbase.unil.ch/project/study-public-overview/13882/0/)
Swiss Election Study (Selects) 2019: Post-Election Survey, conducted by FORS (see https://forsbase.unil.ch/project/study-public-overview/16968/0/)
The VOX 1979 and 1983 survey data were lost. While the department of psychology of the University of Zurich did a parallel election study in 1979 which we used to substitute the former, there is absolutely no replacement for the latter. Thus we are left with 12 national elections over a period of 48 years so far.