Safe, neutral, boring Switzerland is a strangely fertile source of curious cartography. Previously, this blog has zoomed in on wartime contingency plans for a Schweizer réduit (#109), Jules Verne’s fictional New Switzerland (#133), the Swiss/German enclave of Büsingen am Hochrhein (#235) and the geo-culinary phenomenon of the Röstigraben (#257).
That last post touches upon the fact that the different language communities within Switzerland also have distinct political mentalities – the French-Swiss supposedly having a more pro-European outlook, and the German-Swiss apparently less likely to support a stronger federal government. This map expands that little scrap of Swiss political geography into a full-blown cartogram of regional political mentalities in Switzerland.
A cartogram being a map morphed by non-geographic data, there is very little left of Switzerland’s familiar shape to recognise here. The confederation’s centuries-old cartographic persona is transformed by two axes, from liberal to conservative (north-south) and from left-wing to right-wing (east-west). The colours denote the country’s main language areas: German (green), French (red) and Italian (yellow)*. Higher altitude lines correspond with higher population density.
This Switzerland of regional political mentalities is an island that serendipitously looks like Verne’s aforementioned New Switzerland. It is also reminiscent of the Inglehart-Weltzel cultural map of the world (#127), which similarly rearranges the world’s countries along two axes of cultural values.
The French-Swiss area generally is more liberal and left-wing than the rest of Switzerland, but with significant internal diversity. The municipality of Collonge-Bellerive is among the most liberal in Switzerland, but is rather more right-wing than Geneva (marked in German as Genf) and Lausanne, the largest cities of la Suisse romande (French-Switzerland). And Delémont apparently is the hotbed par excellence of socialist agitation in Switzerland. Italian-Switzerland is equally left-wing, but not quite so liberal as the French-Swiss.
If one draws a line from the map’s “southwestern” to its “northeastern” corner, one notices that Deutschschweiz (German-Switzerland) takes up the entire conservative/right-wing half of the island. The only German-speaking areas outside of this half are the urban centres of Basel, Zürich, Bern, Luzern** and Sankt-Gallen. These are more liberal and left-wing than the rest of German-speaking Switzerland, but still more conservative and right-wing than French-speaking Switzerland. Urbanity therefore seems a good predictor of a preponderance of liberal and left-wing politics, while speaking German on average appears to predestine one to a more conservative and right-wing outlook.
Thus, on the axis of Swiss political mentalities, super-conservative Unteriberg is the mirror-image of ultra-liberal Collonge-Bellerive, and right-wing Küsnacht is just about as far away on the political spectrum as one can get from left-wing Delémont.
This map of regional political mentalities also name-checks some political toponyms unlikely to show up on a regular map, such as the Arc Lémanique (the “Lémannic Arc”), i.e. the most liberal area of French-Switzerland, on the Lac Léman, and the Zürcher Goldküste (the “Zurich Gold Coast”), an equally liberal, but more right-wing area in German-Switzerland.
* German: 64%, French: 20%, Italian: 6.5%. The fourth national language, Rhaeto-Romance (0,5%) apparently is too irrelevant to be represented here.
** Luzern (without Umlaut) in German, Lucerne in English (and French)