Ethical food initiatives enjoy broad early support

The agriculture initiatives call for more animal-friendly and sustainable food production. Keystone

Two proposals aimed at promoting sustainable food and local farm products in Switzerland enjoy an exceptionally wide appeal among the public, an opinion poll has found.

This content was published on August 17, 2018 - 06:00

Both the ‘Fair food’ initiative and the ‘Food sovereignty’ initiative currently have the support of more than 70% of respondents ahead of the vote on September 23.

“The initiatives address widespread concerns of the population. They combine environmental and landscape protection,” said Martina Mousson, political scientist for the leading GfS Bern research instituteExternal link, which carried out the survey.

A proposal to promote cycling lanes and footpaths nationwide also has a clear majority among poll respondents (see graph).

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Early stages

However, experts caution that the survey was carried out during the holiday season at the beginning of August and that the political campaigns have barely begun.

“There are large majorities in favour of the initiatives. But chances are they may still be voted down. It all depends on the impact of the campaigns and the committees on both sides over the next few weeks,” added GfS Bern director, Lukas Golder.

Currently, other political issues are on the public’s mind, notably a debate over Switzerland’s future relations with the European Union, and a forthcoming vote in November on a highly controversial proposal to place the Swiss constitution above international law.

Both the leftwing ‘Food sovereignty’ initiative and the Green Party’s ‘Fair food’ initiative have the potential to find support among the grassroots of conservative parties, while in both cases, women are also more inclined to approve them than men, according to the poll, which was published on Friday.

For now, even a majority of low-income voters have come out in favour, despite expected price hikes for food products if the initiatives are approved. The price issue could become a decisive factor in the campaign, according to political experts.

Cycling infrastructure

While pollsters argue that it’s too early to speculate on the outcome of the two agriculture initiatives, a proposal to promote bicycle lanes and footpaths across the country appears to be set for voters’ approval.

The almost 40% lead of supporters of the constitutional amendment is probably big enough to ensure that the vote will pass on September 23, according to Golder.

He said the rightwing People’s Party – the only party advocating a rejection – faces an uphill battle to convince voters in a country often described as a “bicycle-friendly nation”.

In addition, the campaign is likely to be low profile as the issue being put to vote is a compromise approved by parliament earlier this year in response to a people’s initiative that was later withdrawn.

Turnout on September 23 is expected to be around 40% – clearly below average levels, according to the pollsters.

Polling details

Pollsters interviewed 1,200 Swiss citizens from all language regions across the country for the first 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 July 30 to August 10.

The margin of error is 2.9%.

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.

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