My PhD in a Nutshell: Boring Election Campaigns?

Throughout the first post-war decades (1940-1980s), Swiss politics often give the impression of an exceptional political stability. Since party results did not change much from election to election, post-war election campaigns have long been deemed as unimportant or even “boring”. Looking at party archives (minutes of meetings, reports, statistics, election manifestos…) yet reveal another picture. In my PhD, I argue that Swiss political parties have undertook a modernization of their campaign practises throughout the post-war decades (i.e. with the use of surveys). Indeed, the strong segmentation of the Swiss party system in the 1940-1950s still asked for a regular mobilization of constituencies whose loyalties were not as stable as it seemed. The political equilibrium shifted in the 1960s, as new parties and movements emerged and as traditional party ties weakened. From this time onwards, political parties re-assessed their electoral strategies, as the status quo of past decades could no longer be maintained. Swiss politics entered a new period of increased polarization, exemplified by the 1979 neoliberal campaign of the Liberals under the motto “More Freedom, Less State”. By looking at the way Swiss parties tried to construct and maintain representation ties to Swiss citizens over time, my PhD thus shows that election campaigns in post-war Switzerland were, indeed, far from eventless or boring.

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