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Immigration vote result highlights Swiss unease

The tight immigration vote has left some scars in Switzerland Keystone

The success of a controversial anti-immigration initiative at the ballot box on February 9 has revealed how uncomfortable parts of the Swiss population feel about foreigners, according to a new voter survey.

The VOX analysis shows that the vote, which was 50.3% in favour of the initiative, was marked by a strong left-right opposition.

Supporters of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party voted massively in favour of the proposal to limit immigration from the European Union – a stance mirrored by the members of the centre-left Social Democratic Party, which opposed the initiative.

Most sympathisers of the centre-right Christian Democrats and Radicals were also against the proposal, although supporters of the Radical Party were more likely to have cast a ballot.

The initiative attracted support from citizens who rarely or never voted, which might have tipped the scales in its favour according to the gfs.bern institute that carried out the survey.

People living in rural areas, those who do not trust the authorities, those who defend traditions above all else as well as those who want Swiss citizens favoured ahead of foreigners could have also played a role in getting the initiative accepted.

The “yes” vote was also boosted by support from workers, the self-employed, and less affluent voters. People surveyed for the poll were also more likely to vote in favour of the initiative if they considered their economic situation poor.

According to the analysts who combed through the survey results, the “yes” vote can be considered as part of a wider perception that globalisation has more downsides than upsides.

More than a third of those who voted in favour of the initiative said that they did so because they are against immigration or that there are already too many foreigners in Switzerland. Another 17% said that Switzerland must control immigration, and, if necessary, reintroduce quotas.

Only one in ten people said that their vote was a warning shot to the government concerning its policies.

Pro- and anti-European sentiment was not a factor in the ballot. Those who cast a “yes” vote do not believe that the result will endanger Switzerland’s bilateral accords with the European Union, but most are ready to shoulder the responsibility if necessary.

Among those opposed to the initiative, one third said there were economic reasons to reject it, while another 20% said it was too extreme. Negative fallout for Switzerland’s relationship with the EU was a concern for 18%, while the possible reintroduction of quotas for foreign workers was a factor for fewer than one in ten “yes” voters.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR