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2011 Credit Suisse Worry Barometer - Focus on Unemployment and the Economy

The current uncertainty about the economy is also reflected in the 2011 Worry Barometer. In 2011, the Swiss are more worried about the state of the economy than ever before. Anxiety about issues relating to foreigners is also at a higher level again, as was the case in 2007. Confidence in most political, business, and society decision-makers has fallen, and values are similar again to 2009. These are the results of the annual Worry Barometer survey conducted by Credit Suisse.

What are the biggest worries of the Swiss? And how much confidence do they have in political, business, and society decision-makers? For the past 35 years, Credit Suisse has conducted an annual Worry Barometer survey to look into these questions. This year too, on behalf of Credit Suisse, the research institute gfs.bern asked 1,000 voters throughout Switzerland about their concerns. The representative survey was conducted between August 1 and 28, 2011.

Economic Worries Dominate
Unemployment remains the key concern in 2011, but is cited by only 52 percent of voters as the biggest problem facing Switzerland (-24 percentage points versus 2010). Foreigner-related issues take second place in the Worry Barometer at 36 percent (+5 percentage points). The level of anxiety is similar to that seen in the last election year, 2007. 35 percent are worried about the economy (+23 percentage points). In 2011, the Swiss are more worried about the health of the economy than ever before. 30 percent state that the financial crisis and financial market regulation are among their main concerns (+17 percentage points). "This year's Worry Barometer has been much more strongly characterized by fundamental economic issues. At the same time, a majority of respondents continue to rate their personal economic situation as positive, and confidence in the ability of business to overcome the challenges ahead remains intact," says René Buholzer, Head of Public Policy at Credit Suisse.

By contrast, issues such as social security and healthcare have taken more of a backseat. The current dominance of economic worries is also confirmed by views on the urgency of the problems cited. The top three most pressing worries for Swiss voters relate to the economy: Economic performance, unemployment, and questions surrounding the financial markets are deemed to be the problems most urgently requiring a solution.

Worries about Pensions at a Record Low
Worries about healthcare issues and retirement provision are dropping off on a short-term as well as long-term basis. Having reached a high point in the previous year, worries about social security were less in evidence again in 2011 (-11 percentage points). Worries about pensions are actually at the lowest level ever recorded – despite the fact that a solution to the issue has not been found at a political level. Here, there is a considerable short-term drop of 18 percentage points. The other areas causing less anxiety than in previous years include European integration (-9 percentage points) and environmental protection (-2 percentage points); this year sees the two themes fail to make it into the top 10 on the Worry Barometer.

More Pessimistic Views on General Economic Situation
Survey respondents in most cases continue to see their personal economic situation as positive. 54 percent of those surveyed describe their individual situation as good to very good. 37 percent describe their economic situation in 2011 as satisfactory, and only 7 percent as bad. There has been minimal fluctuation in these figures over the years. Despite collective anxiety, a stable 83 percent assume their economic situation will be just as good in 12 months' time as it is today.

After a recovery in the figure in the previous year, significantly more respondents view the general economic situation as critical again in 2011 (+11 percentage points). A relative majority of 46 percent expect stability over the coming 12 months, though views have turned in a clearly more pessimistic direction since a year ago. At present, 41 percent of respondents anticipate a deterioration in the economic situation (+29 percentage points), with just 9 percent believing there will be an improvement. A figure of more than 40 percent of people anticipating a deterioration has been seen only twice in the past (1996 and 2001).

Belief in Business Remains Intact
Though economic parameters are currently causing anxiety among Swiss voters, belief in business remains intact. An unchanged relative majority of voters (41 percent) think that business lets them down only rarely in decisive matters, while 35 percent believe it does so frequently. The only really discernible trend is the steady rise in uncertainty on this issue since 2003. The verdict of respondents on the failure of politicians is relatively stable and similar to the feeling about business; here too, there are indications of a rise in the proportion of uncertainty since 2003. In 2011, this figure is at its highest ever level at 21 percent. 38 percent of respondents say politics lets them down frequently, while an equal number say it does so rarely.

Trust in Political, Business, and Society Decision-Makers Back to Similar Level as 2009
Confidence among Swiss voters in most political, business, and society decision-makers has fallen and values are almost back to where they were in 2009. In 2011, the Federal Court enjoys the greatest confidence, followed by the employee organizations, which moved up from 14th to 2nd place over the 12-month period. Joint third place goes to paid-for newspapers and the employer organizations, which recorded the biggest year-on-year increase in confidence in percentage terms (+16 percentage points). The EU comes bottom of the table. Confidence in the EU peaked in 1998; it then proceeded to fall steadily for a number of years before reaching a turning point in 2005. Confidence in the institution seems to have taken something of a battering again having previously been rising year-on-year. The euro crisis was presumably behind the considerable 14-percentage-point drop in confidence compared with a year earlier.

The survey results may be reproduced provided that "Credit Suisse Worry Barometer" is quoted as the source.