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Swiss People's Party gaining ground, survey finds

Mural of an open-air assembly in the Swiss Senate: The political situation in Switzerland remains very stable despite the Covid pandemic. Keystone/Peter Klaunzer

The right-wing People’s Party appears to be regaining voters and climate protection is back at the top of the Swiss political agenda, according to a new survey.

This content was published on October 15, 2021 - 17:00

In its second Election Barometer since 2019, the Sotomo research institute found that several political parties vying for more influence in the government neck-and-neck in the poll.

 “In an international comparison, the political situation in Switzerland is very stable;” says Michael Hermann, director of the Sotomo research instituteExternal link, which carried out the poll on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation.

"Nevertheless, there are a number of interesting trends,” he adds.

Hermann points out the recovery of the Swiss People’s Party since the 2019 parliamentary term when the previous survey was conducted. “They seem to be able to gain additional support by their opposition to the government’s Covid policy.”

It comes as the party’s traditional anti-foreigner or anti-European Union agenda has lost its pulling-power over the past few months.

He says the right-wing party has always been most convincing for many voters by going it alone and taking on the rest of the political parties.

Winners and losers

Other aspects Hermann highlights are losses for the centre-right Radical-Liberal Party and gains for the centrist Liberal Greens. He also pointed to the fact that the left-wing Green Party appears to stagnate following impressive gains in the last parliamentary elections.

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Based on the poll results, the People’s Party is clearly ahead, followed by the left-wing Social Democratic Party which lost ground as social security issues moved down the list of people’s concerns.

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The researchers identified climate change, including greenhouse gas emissions, as the top political priority for Swiss citizens, followed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The reform of the state old age pension system, relations with the EU and immigration issues follow next, ahead of social security, while concerns about the economy and unemployment are lower down the list.

Impact of pandemic

Hermann says he is surprised that the pandemic is not dominating the list of political challenges, a topic that has dominated Swiss politics over the past 18 months.

However, the Covid crisis has had an indirect impact. The policies in place raise questions about restrictions of personal freedoms, often quoted by opponents of the government’s strategy to contain the spread of the virus.

Sarah Büttikofer, co-author of the latest Election Barometer, also points out that 45% of respondents agreed with the political make-up of the seven-member government – two members each for the People’s Party, the Social Democrats and the Radicals and one seat for the Centre Party (a merger of the Christian Democrats and the Conservative Democrats).

This figure is clearly higher than in polls carried out before the pandemic.

And maybe not surprisingly, Interior Minister Alain Berset, whose portfolio includes health issues, is perceived as the most influential member of the cabinet. For his part, Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis is struggling to convince the public.

Polling details

The online poll was conducted by the Sotomo research institute on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), SWI swissinfo.ch’ parent company.

A total of 27,976 citizens took part in the survey, published on the Sotomo online panel and the websites of the SBC between September 29 and October 3.

There are no separate figures about the opinions of expat Swiss citizens.

The margin of error is +/-1.3% according to the pollsters.

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