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Vote September 23, 2018 Cost concerns eat away at support for food initiatives

Herd of free-range pigs in a meadow

Campaigners of the two initiatives want to promote more animal-friendly production methods both in Switzerland's agriculture and for food imports.

(Keystone/ Melanie Duchene)

Two proposals to promote sustainable agriculture in Switzerland and ethical food have seen a massive drop in support ahead of nationwide votes later this month.

An opinion poll carried out at the beginning of September shows the Food Security initiative by a leftwing farmers group and the Fair Food initiative by the Green Party both losing about a third of their backing compared with a first survey published in mid-August.

Another proposal to boost the cycling infrastructure in Switzerland appears to be heading for a clear victory at ballot box on September 23, according to the leading GfS Bern research instituteexternal link, which conducted the poll on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation,’s parent company.

 See details below and in infobox:

chart poll vote sept

Chart second poll on September votes

The heavy decline in support for the two food and farming initiatives is dramatic but was to be expected, says the GfS Bern director, Lukas Golder.

“Opponents successfully pointed out the weaknesses of the initiatives during the campaigns over the past few weeks,” Golder says. “Namely, the concerns over rising costs for consumers if the proposals win majorities at the ballot box.”

Despite the different approaches of the two proposals, the initiatives seem to appeal primarily to supporters of leftwing political parties, and some backing in rural conservative regions.

But the drop-off in enthusiasm was most pronounced among respondents in the main German-speaking part of the country, people close to centrist or centre-right parties and those without a particular affiliation to a political party.

Polling details

Pollsters interviewed 1,400 Swiss citizens from all language regions across the country for the second of two nationwide surveys.

Swiss expatriates are not included in the poll for data protection reasons.

The telephone interviews, both with fixed line and mobile phone users, took place from August 29 to September 5.

The margin of error is 2.7%.

The survey was commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC),’s parent company, and carried out by the leading GfS Bern research and polling institute.

end of infobox

Golder says the arguments of the supporters of the initiatives - animal-friendly food production, combating food waste, boosting local farm products - still resonate with many citizens, but concerns over the application of the new rules made them hesitate.

“The shift in public opinion is a typical phenomenon with people’s initiatives. During the course of campaigning, more often than not opponents can convince citizens of the flaws of a proposal,” Golder explains.

In other words, barring unforeseen events over the next ten days, both initiatives are headed for defeat.

“The trends clearly indicate No majorities. Anything but a rejection by voters would be a surprise,” the GfS institute says in its report published on Wednesday.

Finishing line

As for a proposal to boost Switzerland’s cycling infrastructure, it is virtually certain to make it past the finishing line on September 23 with a comfortable lead.

Pollsters found no signs of major opposition against the constitutional amendment. The rightwing People’s Party, which has recommended rejecting the proposal, only appeals to a minority of people who never use a bicycle, according to Golder.

But the more than 70% of self-declared bikers among the poll respondents appear to assure an easy victory for the government and parliament.

The proposal is aimed at a nationwide coordination of regional efforts to build more bicycle lanes and was drafted by parliament in response to a people’s initiative which was later withdrawn.

Turnout on September 23 is expected be between 40% and 45%, a slightly below-average level, according to polling experts.

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