Due to widespread concerns about the climate, the environmental parties made significant gains in the 2019 federal elections, especially among young voters. The SP was able to mobilise its party base well, but lost almost a quarter of its former electorate to the Greens. In contrast, the SVP encountered difficulties persuading its supporters to turn out to vote. It does, however, have the most stable voter base among all parties. The mobilisation of women across party lines was only partially successful. Nevertheless, 2019 turned out to be the year of electoral success for women, because the willingness to vote for women instead of men increased significantly compared to 2015. These are some of the findings revealed in a report from the national election study Selects, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and conducted by the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences FORS in Lausanne.
The Greens (GPS) and the Green Liberals (GLP) emerged as the big winners of the 2019 federal elections, while the four parties represented in the Federal Council, above all the SVP and SP, lost in voter strength. The Swiss Election Study Selects investigated the reasons behind these electoral shifts. The study shows that the historic electoral success of the Greens was not due to an unusually strong mobilisation of their own base, since 44 percent of those who voted for the Greens in 2015 actually no longer took part in the 2019 elections. Rather, the GPS owes its election victory to the large influx of former SP voters: around a third of the GPS voters of 2019 had voted for the SP back in 2015. In addition, the GPS scored well above average among young voters. The Greens benefited from the fact that its core issues, namely climate and environment, established themselves as the most important political problems for the electorate during the election campaign.
In the course of the climate debate, the GLP has also become more popular with voters, although the electorate considers the GLP to be considerably less committed and competent in environmental issues than the Greens. The GLP gained in support particularly among the under 35 year olds and convinced many former SP and FDP voters to switch to them. However, the GLP still has a weakly consolidated voter base. The party was able to retain just under two-thirds of its 2015 electorate and less than half of those who intended to vote for the GLP in early summer actually did so during the elections held in autumn.
SVP with mobilisation problems
The SVP suffered from the fact that its core issues, migration and asylum, virtually disappeared from public awareness in the 2019 elections. For the first time, less than half of all SVP sympathisers went to the polls. However, the SVP still holds the most stable voter base across all parties: 85 percent of those who voted for the SVP in 2015 and participated in the 2019 federal elections voted again for the SVP in 2019.
The FDP also had to struggle with mobilisation problems. Besides, the party mainly lost female voters. In contrast, the CVP was the party that best managed to mobilise its supporters. Thanks to the loyalty of its core voters, the CVP was able to maintain its electoral share reasonably well. The CVP was, however, not very attractive for first-time and floating voters.
Victory for women without women’s mobilisation
In the year of the women’s strike, the percentage of elected female candidates reached an all-time high. This result is, however, not a consequence of an increased mobilisation among women. In fact, in 2019 as in previous election years, women turned out less frequently than men. However, women are more willing to vote for female candidates: four out of five women, compared with 54 percent of men, said that they would prefer a female candidate to a male candidate if both candidates were equally qualified. The Candidate Survey reveals that the parties specifically promoted women in 2019. They supported their female candidates financially more strongly than their male candidates. In the media the "women’s election" only received substantial attention in mid-June on the occasion of the women’s strike, but was otherwise (unlike climate and environmental issues) not a dominant topic in media coverage or in candidates’ social media accounts.
The Swiss Election Study Selects
The Swiss Election Study Selects has been investigating turnout and electoral behaviour in federal elections since 1995. In order to gain a better understanding of how citizens form their opinions and decide whom to vote for, Selects also collects data on media coverage and candidates’ campaign activities. Selects is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and conducted by FORS in Lausanne.
As part of Selects, comprehensive surveys were carried out for the 2019 elections:
Media study: content analysis of 87 traditional (print and online) media as well as of candidates’ social media accounts (Twitter and Facebook)
All datasets are documented and freely available for scientific purposes from FORS.
Tresch, Anke, Lauener, Lukas, Bernhard, Laurent, Lutz, Georg und Laura Scaperrotta (2020). Eidgenössische Wahlen 2019. Wahlteilnahme und Wahlentscheid [Swiss Federal Elections 2019. Turnout and vote choice]. FORS-Lausanne. Publication in German (also available in French and Italian) at
Gilardi, Fabrizio, Dermont, Clau, Kubli, Maël und Lucien Baumgartner (2020). Der Wahlkampf 2019 in traditionellen und digitalen Medien [The 2019 election campaign in the traditional and digital media]. Digital Democracy Lab, Universität Zürich. Publication in German at
Anke Tresch is the project manager of the Swiss Election Study Selects at the Swiss Centre of Expertise in the Social Sciences FORS in Lausanne and Professor of Political Science at the University of Lausanne.
Fabrizio Gilardi , director of the Selects media study, is Professor of Political Science at the University of Zurich and director of the Digital Democracy Lab.
Georg Lutz , co-author of the study, is director of FORS and Professor of Political Science at the University of Lausanne.
Isabelle Stadelmann-Steffen is Professor of Political Science at the University of Bern and president of the scientific commission of Selects.