The number of people who never vote in Switzerland is pretty low, a study has found. The vast majority are “selective voters”, choosing which votes to participate in or not. The results come at a time of strong debate over low voter turnout in Switzerland.
According to the Federal Statistics Office, the average voter turnout for nationwide votes in Switzerland – which prides itself as the cradle of direct democracy - was around 43% last year. For example, the figures were around that level for the votes of June 14, 2015 on genetic testing, inheritance tax and public broadcasting fees.
“Swiss people cast their ballots relatively often,” study author Simon Lanz, from the University of Geneva, told Swiss public radio, SRF.
“If we look at the last 20 votes, more than 90% voted at least once,” he added. So over a period of five years, it was only around 10% who did not vote a single time, Lanz said.
The political scientists are aware they have set the bar pretty low but they say the results show that voters are not completely disenchanted with politics. “They can be mobilized and vote from time to time, even if this is not all that often,” Lanz said.
At the other end of the scale, there are only a few Swiss who always vote, the study found. “Selective voters” constitute the bulk of the electorate, simply picking and choosing which votes to take part in. This group is heterogeneous, being made up of the young and old, as well as men and women, it concluded.
In general, these “selective voters” have a low interest in politics, no strong party allegiance and low political knowledge. Their political profile resembles that of those who don't vote at all, said the researchers.
This selective group can be influenced by particular campaigns, for example asylum policy, Lanz said.
The researchers said that the fact that Switzerland had so few vote abstainers, but also so few model voters, was not a bad result. Interest and knowledge of politics could be encouraged at school. This has a positive influence on voter participation, the study found.
The study was based on data from canton Geneva and the Swiss Electoral Study (Selects) from 2011. The Underexplored Species: Selective Participation in Direct Democratic Votes will be published in the Swiss Political Review.
swissinfo.ch and agencies