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Poll finds majorities for Covid certificate and ‘nursing initiative’

Opponents of the Covid certificate lag 25 percentage points behind in a first SBC-commissioned opinion poll ahead of the nationwide ballot on November 28. Keystone/Salvatore Di Nolfi

A proposal to improve working conditions for nurses and another on the use of a certificate to combat the Covid-19 pandemic enjoy widespread support among Swiss citizens, according to a new opinion poll.

This content was published on October 22, 2021 - 06:00

The two issues come to a nationwide vote on November 28 together with a proposal to select federal judges randomly.

The poll, commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) and published on Friday, marks the start of campaigning for supporters and opponents of the three issues on the vote agenda.

Based on the data collected by the leading GfS Bern research institute, the ‘nursing initiative’ is likely to cause an upset.

“It is not only the fact that majorities for initiatives are seldom. But the extent of the margin – more than 60% – and the support from literally all groups of the population at the moment,” says GfS Bern political scientist Martina Mousson.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the threat of overcapacities in hospitals and the stress for nursing staff have added momentum to the initiative, she says.

The absence of a campaign against the people's initiative, despite a counterproposal by parliament, makes voters’ approval all the more likely, according to the opinion poll.

Mousson’s colleague Lukas Golder, the institute’s co-director, says approval of the initiative, if confirmed on November 28, would be historic. No previous proposal launched by an employer’s association has ever been successful at the ballot box.

So far, only 23 of the more than 220 initiatives that have come to nationwide votes managed to win majorities.

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The ‘nursing initiative’ is not the only issue on the ballot sheet to enjoy public support.

Certificate: vocal opposition

A controversial law setting the legal conditions for the use of a Covid certificate also has a solid 25-percentage point lead about seven weeks ahead of voting day, according to pollsters.

This is considerably less than in a previous referendum on the Covid law in June, but support for the certificate appears to be broad enough among the population. But there is vocal opposition from grassroots of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, anti-establishment government opponents and from vaccine critics.

“These groups have the attention of the media. But it remains to be seen whether it is enough to win a majority,” says Mousson. “It seems they struggle to convince citizens of the concerns about alleged discrimination and mass surveillance.”

Nevertheless, pollsters expect heated debates over the issues in the coming weeks.

Opponents have regularly staged street protests, notably in the German-speaking part of the country, against what they consider undue power grabbing by the national government at the expense of the cantons and voters.

Parliament approved the use of a certificate earlier this year, but opponents collected enough signatures to challenge the decision to a nationwide vote.

Judges

With the spotlight on these two issues, the proposal for a random selection of federal judges has had limited appeal among respondents taking part in the poll.

Supporters and opponents currently have similar shares of intended votes and a comparatively large percentage has no clear opinion.

Mousson says this is understandable as the broader public doesn’t see the urgency of the proposed constitutional amendment compared with the other issues on the ballot although there is potential for a protest vote.

The proposal addresses concerns about the independence of judges from political parties and was launched by a businessman who has had dealings with courts.

Polling details

Pollsters interviewed 14,568 Swiss citizens from all language regions across the country and among the expatriate Swiss community for the first of two nationwide surveys.

The survey is based on online responses as well as telephone interviews, both with fixed line and mobile phone users, and was carried out from October 4-18.

The margin of error is 2.8%.

The poll was commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), SWI swissinfo.ch’s parent company, and carried out by the GfS Bern research institute.

A final survey is planned for mid-November.

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