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Liberal Greens gain ground among Swiss voters

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The President of the Liberal Green Party, Jürg Grossen, at a delegates' meeting just before the federal elections of 2019. Keystone / Melanie Duchene

One year after the green wave that engulfed the Swiss parliament, a poll shows that the Green Party is losing support, while the Liberal Green Party is gaining in strength. The Swiss People’s Party remains the country's largest, but its electoral base continues to erode. 

The 2019 federal elections saw the Greens make a historic leap in parliament. The Green Party won 17 seats in the House of Representatives and thus became the country’s fourth largest political force. One year on, a poll of voters carried out by the sotomo research institute shows that the strength of the parties remains fairly stable: the conservative right Swiss People’s Party still commands the majority of votes, followed by the leftwing Social Democrats, the centre-right Radical-Liberal Party and the leftwing Green Party. 

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Despite ending up the big loser in the 2019 federal elections (-3.8 percentage points), the Swiss People’s Party remains the largest political force in the country. However, its base continues to erode with a 1.5 percentage point drop in voting intentions among respondents in the autumn 2020 survey. The Green Party holds on to most of its gains but is losing voters (-1 percentage point), while the centrist Liberal Green Party gains 2 percentage points.  

“Unlike the Greens, the Liberal Greens do not yet seem to have exhausted their growth potential,” noted the sotomo report published on Friday. “They could narrow the gap and become the sixth largest political force in the country.” 

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Covid-19 tsunami 

However, the polling firm points out that the context has changed dramatically since last year: the arrival of the new coronavirus has profoundly altered voters’ concerns. The pandemic is now perceived by an overwhelming majority of respondents (61%) as the most important challenge facing Switzerland.  

However, climate change, which was the dominant theme in the 2019 elections, remains in second place (34%). The next most important issues are directly related to the pandemic: the economy, unemployment and wages. Previous major concerns unrelated to the virus have taken a back seat, such as relations between Switzerland and the European Union, immigration or pensions. 

“The 2019 elections took place in an environment marked by an extremely stable economic situation,” said the research institute. “The coronavirus crisis changed the situation significantly. However, these new priorities do not appear to have significantly altered the electoral intentions.” 

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Voters from four of Switzerland’s six largest parties now see the pandemic as the number one challenge. But supporters of the Swiss People’s Party continue to be primarily concerned about immigration and foreigners, while Green Party voters are increasingly concerned about the climate.  

“Whereas a year ago, 65% of the Swiss People’s Party electorate regarded immigration as the most important challenge, this figure has now fallen to 45%,” the pollster reported. “This is probably one of the causes of this further erosion of the party’s base.” 

Coronavirus is also the main concern among voters in all three language regions, but this trend is even more pronounced in French-speaking Switzerland (67%) than in German-speaking (58%) and Italian-speaking (59%) regions. While climate change remains the second priority in the French- and German-speaking regions, health insurance premiums and unemployment dominate in the Italian-speaking part.   

The survey was carried out by the research institute Sotomo on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), SWI’s parent company. A questionnaire was submitted to 19,620 Swiss voters between October 23 and November 2. The margin of error is +/- 1.3 percentage points. 

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR