A proposal to reduce Switzerland’s carbon footprint by promoting a sustainable economy has seen a substantial drop in support ahead of a nationwide vote. Pollsters expect the initiative to fail at the ballot box on September 25.
“There is a clear trend towards a No majority,” says political scientist Martina Mousson of the GfS Bern polling and research institute, which carried out the poll.
The initiative lost 10% of its backing among respondents compared with a previous survey four weeks ago. At the same time, opponents of the initiative put forward by the Green Party gained 14%, picking up some support from the undecided camp.
The change is also due to a majority of men and grassroots efforts from centre-right political parties coming out against the initiative, says Mousson, who points to “a stark difference of opinions between men and women”.
She says the promoters of the initiative set the pace at an early stage in the campaign, using social media to spread their message.
The opposing camp has stepped up its campaign in the meantime, successfully attacking the supporters’ arguments, says Mousson.
Pollsters say they expect the Green initiative to fail at the ballot box by up to 54%, barring a major incident in the next few days.
A separate initiative by trade unions to boost old age pensions is also likely to be thrown out by Swiss voters, according to the survey published on Wednesday.
The poll, carried out at the beginning of the month, found 40% of respondents saying they would approve the proposal, which is supported by left-wing parties.
Pollsters interviewed 1,415 Swiss citizens from all of the country’s language regions for the second of two nationwide surveys by the GfS Bern research institute ahead of the September 25 vote.
Swiss expatriates are not included in the poll.
The telephone interviews with both landline and mobile phone users took place between August 31 and September 8.
The margin of error is 2.7%.
The survey was commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, swissinfo.ch’s parent company, and carried out by the GfS Bern research and polling institute.
The campaign takes place against the background of a debate in parliament about a major reform of the state old age pension scheme, including raising the retirement age to 67 from 65 for men and 64 for women.
Opponents of the initiative say a pension hike should be targeted towards the less well-off, adding that a 10% across-the-board increase in benefits would cost too much given the financial strains of the social security system as a result of an ageing society.
Switzerland’s three-pillar pension system – including a state pension, an occupational pension scheme and private savings – dates back to the 1970s. Over the years, voters had the final say on about 20 different amendments to the system.
Secret service boost
However, a reform of the intelligence service, which would allow the agency to tap private emails and monitor other online activities, looks set to win approval at the ballot box later this month.
Pollsters expect the measure to win about 59% of the vote, even if support among survey respondents has dropped slightly over the past four weeks.
But opponents did not benefit from voters’ growing uncertainty, with 12% of respondents saying they remain undecided.
“It is rather a rare case,” says political scientist Claude Longchamp of the GfS Bern institute. “Particularly people without any party affiliation seem to be wavering.”
Nevertheless, Longchamp sees supporters of the reform clearly in the lead despite a modest campaign.
“Fears of terrorism following the attacks in Europe in the summer have marked the political debate,” he says.
Longchamp adds that the opponents of the reform, led by the Green Party, have primarily used social media for their “low cost” campaign, which tried to convince potential voters with a variety of factors, notably the protection of digital privacy and criticism of inefficient surveillance methods.
Overall, the polling institute expects an average voter turnout, at about 44%, on September 25.
“The public debates and the involvement of the media have been of average intensity, and there are no signs of a protest vote,” Longchamp says. “It looks like the political Left is heading for defeat against the Centre and the Right.”