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Same-sex marriage has broad support, Swiss poll reveals

Switzerland could soon join other European countries to allow lesbians and gays to get married. © Keystone/Gaetan Bally

A legal reform to allow same-sex marriage in Switzerland appears to be welcome, while a proposal to introduce a capital gains tax has split public opinion.

This content was published on August 20, 2021 - 06:00

Both issues will come to a nationwide vote on September 26.

Supporters of the “marriage for all” initiative have a 40-percentage point lead over opponents, according to an opinion poll commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), swissinfo.ch’s parent company, published on Friday.

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Political scientist Martina Mousson says the situation for supporters of the law is “comfortable” at the start of the main vote campaign. She said the margin could even increase over the next seven weeks.

“It would take a lot to reverse the trend,” said Mousson, who works as project leader for the leading GfS Bern research and polling instituteExternal link which carried out the survey.

Pollsters found a clear gap between the young (overwhelmingly in favour) and old people (still a majority but considerably weaker). There were also clear differences due to religious beliefs (Catholics, Protestants and people without a religious denomination were all in favour, but other Christian groups were strongly against).

The main argument of supporters is that such a change in favour of more equal rights is long “overdue” in a society that no longer considers homosexuality a taboo.

Traditional values

However, members of other churches, such as evangelical movements, as well as people with conservative and right-wing political leanings, have come out against same-sex marriage. They argue that it undermines Christian values and the traditional family unit.

They are concerned that the children of homosexual couples could suffer harm as they might grow up without a father or a mother.

Mousson expects the campaign to pick up over the next few weeks, as attention focuses on the fact that the legal reform also paves the way for sperm donations.

Parliament approved the legal amendment last December, but a small ultra-conservative group and the right-wing Swiss People’s Party collected enough signatures to challenge the decision to a nationwide vote.

Last year, Swiss voters clearly backed a law protecting gays, lesbians and transsexuals against discrimination.

Neck-and-neck

While the outcome of the September referendum on same sex marriage appears predictable, the poll findings on the initiative for a capital gains tax are slightly more controversial - at least at first glance.

Supporters and opponents of the tax reform are running neck-and-neck, while 9% of respondents are still undecided.

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But the history of Switzerland’s direct democratic system has shown that people’s initiatives tend to lose ground in the final weeks before voting day.

Pollsters expect to see the same thing again with the initiative launched by the Young Socialists, despite support from left-wing political parties and trade unions.

Lukas Golder, co-director of the GfS Bern institute, says the idea of fighting social injustice and economic inequality enjoys support among citizens.

“The campaigners are stronger than expected,” he says. “But the chances of winning the vote are rather slim.”

He says it will be tough to convince a middle-class population that the wealth gap between the rich and the poor in Switzerland is critical and that it could benefit from the alleged new revenue.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic does not help either, according to Golder. He says owners of small and medium-sized businesses – the backbone of the business community in Switzerland – are concerned about a lack of investment from wealthy shareholders.

Votes on tax reforms are traditionally difficult to win in Switzerland, especially for left-wing groups. Recent failures at the ballot box include an attempt to abolish lump sum taxation for rich foreigners, a plan to introduce an inheritance tax or proposals to impose new energy taxes.

The Social Democratic Party also failed with an earlier initiative for a capital gains tax in 2001.

Polling details

Pollsters interviewed 22,427 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. It was carried out from August 2-16.

The margin of error is 2.8%.

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

A final survey is planned for mid-September.

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