More than one in three Swiss feel uncomfortable around people perceived to be different because of their nationality, religion, skin colour or other factors, a government survey has found.
The poll – released by the Federal Statistical Office on Tuesday – sought for the first time to gauge how people coexist in a country of 8.4 million residents, a quarter of them foreigners.
Thirty-six per cent said they felt uneasy in the presence of people they found outside the norm, particularly those who spoke a foreign language or travelled around. It did not give more details on the last category, but Roma and other itinerant groups have complained of discrimination in non-EU Switzerland.
Sixteen per cent of respondents went further and said they felt threatened by foreigners.
When presented with negative characteristics about three groups, 17% of respondents said the comments applied to Muslims, 12% to Jews and 4% to blacks. In addition, 33% were hostile towards Islam, 14% towards Muslims, 10% towards blacks and 8% towards Jews.
Despite that, most of the 3,000 respondents were in favour of granting more rights to foreign nationals, the poll discovered. Two out of three said racism was a key social problem, and 56% believed the integration of migrants was working well.
With four national languages and a decentralised system of government, traditionally Christian Switzerland is increasingly diverse. There are more than ten main religious communities in a population made up of people with roots in 190 other countries.
Rightwing parties have stoked anti-foreigner sentiment, pushing for a series of measures – such as a ban on new minarets for mosques that became law in 2009.
But parliament last year watered down demands of a 2014 referendum to impose quotas on immigration from the European Union, the bloc that surrounds it and provides most of its trade.
swissinfo.ch and agencies/ts