Study title
Changes in values and new dividing lines in Switzerland
Ref study 5230
Study language French
Contributing institutions
  • Comparaison internationale
  • Clivage
  • Comparaison temporelle
  • Changements de valeurs
  • Enquête par questionnaire
  • Fondements socio-structurels
  • Manifestations politiques
  • Nouvel individualisme
  • Postmatérialisme
  • Suissitude
Geographical space
  • Switzerland
The aim of the study was to investigate the changes in values in Swiss society, the resulting new divides in social and political life, and their socio-structural foundations.
It has allowed a better understanding of the conflicts and oppositions that were likely to leave their mark on Switzerland's entry into the next millennium. This goal could only be achieved by using a multi-level research strategy. First, such research required a detailed examination of Swiss values. Thus, a questionnaire survey addressing the major areas of life (family, religion, work, politics, ecology, etc.) was at the centre of this project. Then, to carry out our project, we relied on a comparative approach, both on the temporal and spatial levels.
To draw conclusions on the evolution of these values and divisions, a temporal comparison was necessary. A great advantage of our project was the fact that a similar survey had already been carried out in Switzerland in 1988/9 (Melich, 1991). The time that elapsed between the two surveys was of great interest for studying the impact of the economic crisis that Switzerland experienced in the early 1990s on individuals and their visions of the world. Unlike this previous survey, our project was not limited to a simple description of values and their evolution. It was based on a theoretical conception that also included the socio-structural foundations of the divisions, as well as their political translation. In addition, our project raised an issue specific to Switzerland. We tested the relevance of three conceptualizations of value change - and related divisions: postmaterialism, new individualism, "Swissness" (openness vs. closure or modernization vs. tradition).
Finally, this project had the great advantage of being part of a vast international research network, the "World Value Survey", whose third wave of surveys brought together more than 50 countries. Access to data collected in other countries offered very rich comparative perspectives. Such comparisons were essential if possible Swiss specificities were to be identified. This included an examination of whether the social changes in post-industrial society had led to the emergence of the same divides in Switzerland as elsewhere, in particular the frequently cited open-close divide to explain the recent negative votes on outward opening issues (vote on the EEA, peacekeepers, Lex Friedrich, etc.).
The questionnaire survey that was at the centre of the research was conducted in the spring of 1996 by a polling firm. The questionnaire required the use of so-called face-to-face interviews, which were normally to last a maximum of 60 minutes. The sample of interviewees was selected so that comparisons between linguistic regions - as well as analyses within these regions - were possible. This required an over-representation of French and Italian speakers. The minimum acceptable sample size was 1,200 people in the three language regions: 600 German speakers, 400 French speakers and 200 Italian speakers.
The questionnaire submitted to the interviewees closely followed the proposal of the international research group. It has benefited from the experience gained in previous waves of surveys, as well as from pre-tests carried out in a few countries. This questionnaire covered the most important areas in terms of values: perception of self and personal situation, conception and role of work, attachment to religion, vision of the family, role of women and men, importance of leisure, priorities for society and the country, sense of belonging, ecological orientation, feeling towards "the other" (foreigners, immigrants, homosexuals, etc.), attitudes towards poverty, associative life, political interest and activism, ideological and partisan preferences, satisfaction and trust in national and international institutions, etc.
By addressing all these different areas, the questionnaire of the international research group allowed a detailed examination of the values. The questions we added allowed us to take into account the particularities of the Swiss context. Some of these questions were taken from questionnaires from other surveys conducted in Switzerland, in particular the VOX surveys (eight scales of values relating to the army, foreigners, gender equality, traditions, liberalism, ecology, full employment, citizenship). It should be noted that while VOX surveys provide some information about "Swiss values", these are far too limited to adequately answer the questions raised in this research. Finally, given our intention to examine in detail the socio-cultural foundations of values and divides, we have also added questions to more accurately measure the socio-professional situation of the interviewees.
Methods (description)
Methods (instruments)
Replicated study No
  • Hug, Simon; Sciarini, Pascal. 2002. Changements de valeurs et nouveaux clivages politiques en Suisse. L'Harmattan, Paris, 2002.
  • Brunner, Matthias; Sgier, Lea. 1997. Crise de confiance dans les institutions suisses? Quelques résultats d'une enquête d'opinion. In: Revue suisse de science politique, vol. 3 (1), 1997, pp. 105-113.
Unpublished documents
  • Inglehart, Ronald; Basáñez, Jaime; Halman, Loek; Luijkx, Ruud. 2004. Human Beliefs and Values. A cross-cultutral sourcebook based on the 1999-2002 values survey. México: Siglo XXI Editores, 2004.
Financed by
Ethical approval No
Study type
Data availability
Source (Updates) SNSF
Date created 24.04.2018
Date modified 24.04.2018
Start - End date 01.05.1996 - 28.04.1998