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Swiss persist in taking a rosy view

The Swiss are decidedly optimistic about the future. Almost three-quarters have a rosy view of the decade ahead, and half say they are optimists by nature.

That's according to a new study which showed that, while the world frets about a stalled economy and the prospect of war in Iraq, little seems to dampen Swiss spirits.

The study canvassed the views of 1,010 Swiss over the age of 18, starting with the question: "Do you consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist?".

Some 51 per cent immediately declared themselves optimists, with only ten per cent confessing to being of the negative persuasion. The remainder defined themselves as "realists".

The survey, commissioned by Credit Suisse, and carried out by the GfS Research Institute, was chiefly concerned with expectations for the decade ahead.

When asked about the future, the optimism factor shot up, confirming that the Swiss are indeed the most positive people in the world. An incredible 73 per cent are "optimistic" or "very optimistic" about the decade ahead.

Most positive in the world

Comparisons with similar surveys in other places suggest that the Germans are the world's second most positive people - 67 per cent - compared with 51 per cent for the European Union overall.

The Americans, by contrast, struggle to manage a smile when it comes to thinking about the future. Even Asians - who are clearly not jumping for joy about the years ahead - are more upbeat than their American counterparts. The Russians, Africans and South Americans are seriously negative, with good reason.

Indeed, the only thing the Swiss seem really concerned about is the environment. The finding came as a surprise, particularly since issues such as deforestation, ozone depletion and global warming have a much lower profile in the media than in the 1980s.

The threat of terrorism hardly figured in the Swiss view of the future. But scepticism about politicians' ability to change anything for the better remained high.

Stock markets

In terms of concrete expectations, the Swiss expect technology to power ahead despite the bursting of the tech-bubble, but their view of the financial markets is more bleak.

Nearly 20 per cent said they were "very pessimistic" about the prospects for the stock market over the next decade, with another 38 per cent feeling "fairly pessimistic".

The Swiss are also fairly sure that the country will be a member of the EU in ten years' time. Some 61 per cent thought joining was likely despite a referendum last year, which forbade the government from even starting talks about talks with Brussels. Sixteen per cent said membership was "very likely".

Health care, an ever-present political issue given the spiralling costs, would become a two-tier system, thought most Swiss.

Life in 2027

Looking ahead even further - to 2027 - the optimism factor becomes almost boundless.

Most Swiss think an Aids vaccine will be a reality, along with emission-free environmentally friendly cars.

Two things that most certainly won't change, say the Swiss, are banking secrecy - it will still be going strong - and the chances that a woman might be sitting in the pope's chair in the Vatican.

Equally improbable within this timespan were "designer babies" - genetically engineered to order - and the colonisation of outer space.


Optimism facts

The study canvassed the views of 1,010 Swiss over the age of 18.
51 per cent said they were optimists, with only ten per cent negative about the future.
The environment is the biggest concern for most Swiss.
Most think the country will be in the EU within ten years.

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