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Did you know that staying single lowers political turnout?

FORS is the national centre of expertise in the social sciences in Switzerland. It enhances and supports work in the social sciences by conducting surveys and methodological research, and by providing researchers with a wealth of information and data for secondary analysis.

1. Swiss Household Panel

The principal aim of the Swiss Household Panel (SHP) is to observe social change, in particular the dynamics of changing living conditions and representations in the population of Switzerland. It is a yearly panel study following a random sample of private households in Switzerland over time. The SHP constitutes a unique longitudinal database for Switzerland and is supported by the Swiss national science foundation. The survey covers a broad range of topics and approaches in the social sciences. Data collection started in 1999 with a sample of 5 074 households containing 12 931 household members. In 2004 a second sample of 2 538 households with a total of 6 569 household members was added; and since 2013 the SHP contains a third sample of 4 093 households and 9 945 individuals.

Fun facts: In Switzerland, more women worked in 2015 than in 1999: from 57% in 1999 to 66% in 2015 in the German-speaking part of the country, from 53% to 57% in the French-speaking part, and from 46% to 51% in the Italian-speaking part. Despite this common trend, working patterns for women still differ with regard to the linguistic regions as a reflection of cultural, social and political variations. While a similar percentage work full-time in all three regions (29% in German, 27% in French, and 24% in Italian), German-speaking women particularly differ from French-speaking women with regard to their employment in small part-time jobs (1-59%[1]: 30% vs. 23%) and from Italian-speaking women in relation to their employment in big part-time jobs (60-89%: 23% vs. 13%).


Selects is part of different international comparative networks, such as the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) and the Comparative Candidate Survey (CCS). It is a joint electoral research project of several political science departments at Swiss universities. Through Selects, it has been possible to study voting behaviour in Switzerland in depth in the latest four national elections. The project, started in 1995 with the ambition to connect Swiss electoral research to the state of the art at the international level, has been successful in many respects. The Selects project created a series of data sets allowing long-term comparison since 1971. FORS distributes the Selects data as well as the integrated data set for the Comparative Candidate Survey (CCS), which includes 32 elections from 24 countries.

Fun facts:

  1. Women are catching up. While only 39% of eligible women participated in the Swiss national elections of 1995, participation among women reached 46% in 2015. Interestingly, in 1995 only 18% of women aged between 18 and 24 took part in the federal elections compared to 24% of men in the same age group. By 2015, participation among young women and men attained an equal level of 30%. The gender gap in political participation among older age groups is slowly getting smaller, too. Whereas in 1995 the difference between men and women aged 45 and older was at 12 percentage points, it decreased to 9 percentage points in the latest elections.
  2. Voters who place themselves on the left side of the political axis seem to have gained an interest in politics. Their participation in federal elections increased from 48% in 1995 to 59% in 2015. On the contrary, political participation is stagnating among Swiss citizens who place themselves on the right side of the political spectrum. Whereas 59% of them took part in the parliamentary election in 1995, this percentage decreased slightly to 55% in 2015.


The VOTO project analyses, after each federal popular vote, the reasons why Swiss voters participated, and explains their decisions. Since autumn 2016, the VOTO surveys have taken over from the VOX surveys. In order to ensure continuity, the essential questions asked in the VOX survey were included in the VOTO surveys. The first VOTO survey is dedicated to the vote of 25 September 2016.

Fun facts:

  1. Staying single lowers political turnout. Among singles, less than every second person reports to have taken part in the last popular vote. On the other hand, two out of three citizens who are married state that they participated in the last ballot. The difference between these two groups was on average 14 percentage points between 1981 and 1990. Over the years it has however significantly grown to a staggering 26 percentage points over the last 10 years.
  2. The least complicated voting proposal in the last 35 years was the popular initiative for the introduction of a public holiday on the Swiss national day, 1 August. When asked how difficult it was to come to a vote decision, 92% of the respondents stated that it was rather easy for them. This initiative was put to the vote in 1993 and accepted by a vast majority of 84%. One of the most complicated voting proposals was the Corporate Tax Reform Act II in 2008. 61% of the surveyed voters found it difficult to reach their vote decision.


MOSAiCH (Measurement and Observation of Social Attitudes in Switzerland) is a cross-sectional social survey programme that focuses on the Swiss population’s values and attitudes towards a wide range of social issues. The respondents are drawn from a probabilistic sample representing the country’s population aged 18 and above. The questionnaire is basically divided into three parts: a first part with core questions on socio-political and socio-demographic topics that remain unchanged in every round; a second part with the current module(s) of the International Social Survey Program (ISSP) and a third part with additional questions gathered through an open call to the Swiss academic community. The ISSP is a long-standing survey conducted in more than 40 countries all over the world, with Swiss data going back as far as 1987. The specific design of the MOSAiCH survey offers researchers an overall data set that allows for cross-country, cross-time and cross-module analysis.

Fun facts:

  1. Almost 80 percent (79%) of the population in Switzerland would enjoy having a paid job even if they did not need the money. Almost every second respondent (47%) would turn down another job that offered quite a bit more pay in order to stay with the organisation that they work for (MOSAiCH-ISSP 2015).
  2. Federalism, Neutrality and Direct Democracy: unbroken popularity since the beginning of MOSAiCH. The population in Switzerland supports the characteristic features of its political system. In 2007, 77% of the population spoke in favour of maintaining direct democracy in Switzerland, in 2015 this number slightly increased to 81%. People in Switzerland also support the principle of neutrality (from 64% in 2007 to 75% in 2015) and a majority thinks that federalism should remain unchanged (from 51% in 2007 to 63% in 2015).


TREE (Transitions from Education to Employment) surveys post-compulsory educational and labour market pathways of school leavers in Switzerland, being the country’s first prospective longitudinal study of this type at a national level. The project’s first cohort (TREE1) is based on a sample of approximately 6 000 young people who participated in the PISA survey of the year 2000 and left compulsory school the same year. This sample has been followed up by means of seven survey panels on a yearly basis from 2001 until 2007 and two further survey panels in 2010 and 2014. A further panel wave is planned for 2019 (with an average respondent’s age of 35). The longitudinal observation of a second school leavers’ cohort (TREE2) started in 2016. With this extension to a multi-cohort design, Switzerland is among the few countries worldwide in which comparative inter-cohort analyses can be carried out.

Read the previous article in the series: "Open if possible, protected if needed: Research data via DANS".

[1] 100% corresponds to a full-time workload.

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