Pay cap initiative set for clear defeat

Supporters of special tax breaks for families still are ahead, but the outcome of the November 24 ballot could be close Keystone

Voters appear to reject a proposal aimed at capping top manager salaries, according to a new survey. Opponents have won considerable ground over the past few weeks and look set to hold the upper hand on November 24.

This content was published on November 13, 2013 - 16:59

The opinion poll, conducted by the leading GfS Bern research institute, found opponents of the 1:12 initiative on executive pay having a 18% lead over the supporters of the proposal by the leftwing Young Socialist Party.

Thirty-six per cent of respondents in the survey published on Wednesday approved the initiative, down 8% from a similar poll in October. Those against now stand at 54%. (For details see graphic below)

“Several factors show clearly that the initiative is set to fail at the ballot box,” says political scientist Claude Longchamp. The head of the research institute expects a 2:1 rejection.

He points out a clear ideological polarisation between the grassroots on the left and the right.

However, unlike a nationwide ballot in March about boosting the shareholder say in top manager wages, the controversy over exorbitant salaries appears to have lost some of its momentum for many citizens.

“The issue at stake has changed, and the argument by opponents of the initiative, warning of expected shortfalls in state revenue, seems to prevail,” says Longchamp.

The leftwing promoters of the proposal have the backing of trade unions, the centre-left Social Democrats and the Green Party, but all other parties, as well as the government, parliament and the business community have come out against it.

The initiative seeks to limit the pay within a company at a 1:12 ratio between lowest and highest salary earner.

Massive shift

While the interest of political observers is moving away from the leftwing salary initiative, the domestic focus has shifted to a separate issue to come to vote at the end of the month: a plan by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party to grant tax breaks for families who raise their children at home, rather than sending them to daycare facilities.

The initiative, which initially enjoyed the backing of nearly two out of three respondents in a public survey, slumped considerably and has just a 6% lead over the opponents.

The support dropped to 49% three weeks ahead of polling day, while the opposition saw its share surge by 18%.

Such a big shift is indeed very rare and coincides with a major campaign by opponents over the past few weeks, according to Longchamp. Numerous events, notably a joint news conference by the leaders of most political parties, appeared to have an impact.

The activities of the opposing parties were also mirrored prominently in the media, leaning towards the point of view of the authorities rather than the initiative group, Longchamp notes.

The campaign has been marked by debates over the traditional family roles, a potential shortfall in state revenue and the issue of fair taxes, putting those parents who send their children to nurseries and those who stay at home to look after the family both in the spotlight.

Political scientist Martina Imfeld points to a polarisation between citizens with and without children as well as couples where both parents have a gainful employment.

“The trend and previous polls show rejection of the initiative is more likely than approval by voters,” Imfeld says.

SBC poll – November 24 vote

The pollsters interviewed 1,409 citizens from across the country for the second of two surveys ahead of the November 24 vote.

Swiss expatriates are not included in the poll.

The telephone interviews took place between 1-8 November.

The margin of error is 2.7%.

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

End of insertion

Motorway fees

The third issue to be decided on November 24 - a massive increase in motorway fees – is too close to call for scientists.

Opponents of the parliamentary decision to raise the fee from CHF40 ($44) to CHF100 are currently neck and neck with the supporters.

Party affiliations appear to play a minor role in the decision-making process for citizens, unlike car ownership and income levels, the survey found.

A committee by People’s Party members and representatives of road associations launched a referendum in March to reverse a parliamentary decision.

At the end of the day turnout on November 24 could be decisive for the outcome of the vote, says Longchamp.

His institute estimates that about 51% of citizens will take part in the ballots, a level clearly above the long-term average and even higher than turnout at the last parliamentary elections in 2011.

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