Environmental parties and topics are top of the list five months ahead of the October Swiss parliamentary elections. The priorities of the expatriate Swiss community are similar and their party-political profiles a shade greener than those of residents in Switzerland.
The Green Party appears to be going from strength to strength, recording a 3% increase in voter support compared with the 2015 elections, according to the latest survey commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation – the parent company of swissinfo.ch.
The Greens for the first time hit double-digit figures (10.1%) while small and more centrist Green Liberals also progressed to 6.4% (+1.8%) according to the Election Barometer published by the Sotomo research instituteexternal link. This is partly due to increasing support among the young generation.
The right-wing Swiss People’s Party remains the strongest group with a 26.5% vote share but suffered a drop of nearly 3% according to the survey published on Thursday.
Issues about climate change and CO2 emissions are back at the top of the concerns of respondents in the online survey, which was carried in the second half of May. A previous study by the Sotomo institute saw Swiss relations with the EU as primordial.
“The climate issue is high on the agenda like in previous surveys. But it has not gained additional importance,” says Sotomo director Michael Hermann. “At the same time, the other topics have somewhat lost ground.”
Both the Green Party and the Green Liberals are proportionally more successful among the expat Swiss community than among residents in Switzerland.
However, the Swiss People’s Party and the Christian Democrats are currently clearly less popular among the Swiss Abroad than in Switzerland. See chart below.
The other two main parties, the left-wing Social Democrats and the centre-right Radical Liberals, come second and third respectively, five months ahead the parliamentary elections on October 20.
Hermann says it is noticeable that the People’s Party and the Radicals have the highest percentage of supporters who expressed doubts about the political profile of their party.
He says the losses of the Radicals are partly self-inflicted as the high-profile campaign by the party leadership about a policy change on environmental issues has so far failed to impress the public.
Some groups fare considerably better in different language regions of the country: The Social Democrats seem to lose support in the French-speaking region, while winning ground in the main German-speaking regions. The opposite holds true for the Radicals.
Three top themes
Climate change, EU relations and the health insurance premiums are the key topics mentioned by respondents in the survey, the fourth of its kind published since October 2017.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the future ties between Switzerland and the EU are still top of the concerns for the expatriate Swiss community, followed by climate issues. For details see chart below.
In comparison, climate policy and EU ties feature top of the list in German and French-speaking Switzerland and rising health insurance premiums within the top four in all three language regions.
“Typically, expatriate Swiss are not directly concerned by the [rising] premiums,” Hermann explains the striking difference.
He says it is possible that the perceived importance of election issues will remain unchanged, even if other topics, notably EU relations, immigration, pensions or gender equality, could still play a stronger role in the remaining five months.
“The climate issue may possibly also survive a rainy summer,” Hermann quips.
The People's Party and the Radicals could lose their waver-thin majority in the 200-member House of Representatives if the centrist and left-wing parties make enough gains on October 20.
In the Senate, the Christian Democrats and the Radicals have been the strongest groups, just ahead of the Social Democrats.
The SBC Election Barometer is an online poll by the Sotomo research institute in Zurich.
The fourth of six surveys is based on valid data from 10,388 respondents, among them 390 expatriate Swiss. It was carried out between May 17 and 27.
The margin of error is +/- 1.5% according to Sotomo.