A final opinion poll ahead of the October 18 parliamentary elections confirms a slight trend towards the centre-right end of the political spectrum. Immigration and asylum have remained the key campaign issues over the past few weeks.
The fourth poll, carried out by the leading Swiss pollster GfS Bern research institute this year, reaffirms slight gains for the two main political parties to the right.
The People’s Party, Switzerland’s biggest party, had the support of 27.9% of respondents (compared with 26.6% of voters in the 2011 elections) while the Radical Party stood at 16.7%, up 1.6% from 2011.
Based on the survey, the leftwing Green Party appears to be among the main losers, dropping from 8.4% to 7.2%. For more details, see the graphic below.
“These figures are not forecasts and they do not include the final phase of the campaign,” says GfS Bern director Claude Longchamp.
But he notes a continuing general political stability in Switzerland and no signs of a major shift to the right.
The election campaign over the past few months largely focused on immigration and, to a much lesser extent, on unemployment, the state old age pension system and relations with the European Union.
“The issue of migration has won in popularity,” says GfS political scientist Martina Mousson. However, the latest survey confirms that the extensive media coverage of the Europe-wide refugee influx had no direct impact on the support base of any individual party.
“Instead, respondents often came out in favour of a multi-party approach,” Mousson says.
Longchamp says the electoral campaign has gathered momentum over the past few weeks, but none of the political parties have succeeded in harnessing the full potential of their grassroots.
The parties to the right and to the left are clearly ahead of the centrist groups when it comes to mobilising supporters, according to Longchamp.
Overall, 49% of respondents said they would take part in the elections on October 18. That’s down 0.5% from the actual turnout in 2011.
“Elections in Switzerland are not won because of individual personalities,” says Longchamp. Instead, the perceived quality of the specific campaigns of the parties or the issues at stake play a key part.
Rise of People’s Party
He warns against belittling the strategy of the People’s Party, which appeared to invest considerable financial resources in garnering media attention with campaign songs, videos and mascots.
“The party has been able to position itself as the leading anti-European group. But its agenda also includes social security, immigration and the economic issues,” says Longchamp.
He says the party over the past 20 years has built up an undeniable appeal among citizens with below-average school education, largely at the expense of the centrist Christian Democratic Party, which used to have its strongholds in predominantly Catholic regions of the country.
However, Longchamp says the generation spanning 18- to 39-year-olds does not necessarily support a trend towards strong parties to the right and the left.
The conservative right People’s Party is only slightly ahead of the other main groups.
The younger generation appears to favour a system with several parties which form temporary alliances with others to push through their ideas – continuing a long-standing tradition in Swiss politics, according to Longchamp.
The poll was carried out among 2,011 citizens in all language regions of the country between September 23 and 30.
Swiss abroad citizens were not included in the survey.
The margin of error is 2.2%.
The survey was conducted by the leading GfS Bern research and polling institute on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) - swissinfo’s parent company.
It is the fourth and final poll this year in the run-up to the parliamentary elections on October 18.