Zurich and Lucerne Elections


The first two elections covered by the “Making Electoral Democracy Work” project have been held. The voters of the Cantons Zürich and Luzern have elected their legislative as well as the cantonal executive councils elections on April 3 (Zürich) and April 10 (Luzern). Since Zürich is the most populated canton of Switzerland and Luzern the leading and most populated canton of historically catholic and rebellious Inner Switzerland, both of these elections have been widely regarded as test-ballots for the national elections in the fall and therefore received considerable media attention. In both cantons, the parties of the moderate center, the FDP and the CVP lost a considerable share of votes as well as representations, the Green-Liberals were the clear winners in both cantons in terms of winning new voters and seats. This might be due to the increased competition in the center of the new BDP and Green-Liberals, a “Fukushima-effect” which is widely recognized as helpful for the Greens and Green-Liberals, though not uncontested, and the generally moderate and noncontroversial campaigns, which did not mobilize many voters, even in the face of the test-election media environment. 35% of the eligible population of Zürich and 43.5% of the entitled voters of Luzern (an all-time low turnout for the latter canton) made use of their democratic right. In Zürich, the SVP, although losing 2 of 56 seats (180 in total), still is the largest party, the CVP lost 1/7 of her seats, but still stays the largest party in her stronghold Luzern with 39 of 120 seats.

The elections for the 7 seats in the executive council of Zürich were very close. Apart from Maja Ingold, the candidate of the minor EVP, all 8 candidates of the major parties reached the quorum of 50% of 1/7 of the votes cast, the first and last only 18,548 votes apart. So CVP-candidate Hans Hollenstein, incumbent and seen as a relatively safe winner in the polls, but defeated by the Green candidate Martin Graf with a margin of only 2328 votes, had to accept the fact, that there was no seat for him in the new executive council. So the new executive council of Zürich consists of 2 candidates of the SP, 1 of the Greens, 2 of the FDP and 2 of the SVP. In Luzern, only the incumbent CVP-candidate Guido Graf reached the quorum to secure one of the 5 seats in the executive council. There will be a runoff between 5 remaining candidates (1 CVP, 1 Independent, 1 FDP, 1 SP, 1 SVP) for the other 4 seats on May 15th, silent election of the 4 best candidates was not possible, because only CVP and Greens withdrew their candidate on 6th and 8th place, respectively. We will therefore expand our data collection efforts to cover the second round.
In the course of the two nearly simultaneous campaigns, data from many sources such as newspaper ads, letters to the editor, TV-debates, party manifestos, interviews with campaign managers etc. have been or are collected at the moment. Also a pre- and post-election panel survey has been fielded in both cantons with over 1000 pre- and ~750 post-respondents each. Bringing these data together will give us the opportunity to assess and make sense of the different parties’ strategies, actions and non-actions and their impact on the strategic behavior of cantonal voters in Switzerland and, when compared to the data from Spain, Germany, Canada and France later on, subnational voters in general.

Pre-Election Questionnaire Topics
1. Satisfaction with democracy
2. Vote
3. Satisfaction with government /at regional/federal level over last 12 months
4. Economic evaluations over last 12 months
5. Government responsibility for economic situation
6. Party ratings
7. Evaluation of potential government formations (coalitions/minority governments)
8. Perceived likelihood of coalitions/minority governments
9. Awareness of electoral agreements between parties
10. Which minor parties will get enough votes to get into parliament?
11. How much do you care about who is elected in your local district?
12. Party identification (e.g., Do you feel close to a party? Which party? How close?)
13. Left-right ideology battery of questions
14. Feelings of efficacy
15. Impact of each level of government on well-being of self
16. Corruption in government at each level

Post-Election Questionnaire Topics
1. Satisfaction with democracy
2. Vote choice
3. Were you contacted by parties?
4. Political participation questions (battery)
5. Representativeness of the election
6. Evaluations of electoral system
7. Electoral system information questions
8. Feelings of efficacy
9. Occupation
10. Internal migration
11. Use of voting advice applications
12. Awareness of pre-existing electoral coalition agreements
13. Union membership

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