The Swiss Sense of Belonging
Articles & stories

The Swiss Sense of Belonging

Where do the Swiss feel at home? What do they think of their own economic situation? And what puts their identity at risk? Surprising answers reveal the respondents' feelings. 

No less than 707 Swiss municipalities – almost a quarter of the total – have disappeared due to consolidation since 1990. These consolidations, combined with a general increase in mobility, could be one reason why the municipality or commune no longer represents the uncontested center of self-identity. While 44 percent of Swiss citizens surveyed primarily felt a sense of belonging to their commune in 2011, today it is only 19 percent (+2 percentage points [pp] since 2014).

According to the Worry Barometer, the "Swissness curve" of the last few years has stopped rising: The sense of identification with Switzerland as a whole has dropped 2 pp to 26 percent in 2015. The language region (+5 pp) and the canton (+2 pp) are nearly the same at 24 percent. The results become more significant if you also add the place that comes in second among respondents: Switzerland ranks first at 50 percent (-6 pp), with the language region coming in second at 47 percent (+12 pp); both are ranked considerably higher than the canton of residence at 36 percent (-5 pp) and the municipality of residence at 31 percent (+3 pp). Europe, at 15 percent (-2 pp), and the world, at 9 percent (-2 pp), offer little in the way of a sense of identity.

Top Concern 2015

A New Trend in Regional Identity

Are language regions therefore becoming increasingly important? The long-term trend is clear: In 2007, only 8 percent felt they primarily belonged to French-speaking, Italian-speaking, or German-speaking Switzerland; today three times as many feel this way.

This trend toward identifying with larger regions also apparently brings with it the risk of diminishing solidarity. In the meantime, egotism (at 71 percent, +4 pp) is considered just as much a threat to Swiss identity as the relationship with the EU; in French-speaking Switzerland, egotism is considered a somewhat greater risk (75 percent) than in German-speaking Switzerland (71 percent). Against this backdrop is also the fact that disinterest in important political issues (14 percent) was mentioned almost as frequently as retirement concerns (16 percent) in the open survey concerning Switzerland's main problems. The reform backlog (67 percent, +4 pp) and polarization (58 percent, +4 pp) are also increasingly seen as a risk to Swiss identity.

Taxes Are Becoming More of an Issue

When asked about fair taxation, certain recognizable individual tendencies appeared. Of course, no one likes paying taxes, yet in 2011, 40 percent of those surveyed still believed that the tax burden was just right. Now it is just 27 percent. Likewise, four years ago, only 54 percent complained that taxes were too high; now it is 70 percent. A decreasing sense of solidarity and greater concerns about egotism may negatively impact people’s willingness to pay taxes.

However, there is also certainly a connection between the tax questions and the respondents' assessment of the general and their personal economic situations. In this case, a somewhat more pessimistic view of the future can be observed at a very high level, though only 8 percent (+1 pp) worry specifically about losing their jobs over the next 12 months. 63 percent (+3 pp) of the respondents rated their current economic situation as good or very good. And 86 percent (-6 pp) believe that next year they will be even better off or at least the same. On the other hand, though only 6 percent (-1 pp) complained about a bad financial situation, 13 percent (+6 pp) worry that things will worsen – the highest score since 2002 (1 percent gave no answer).

Only 20 Percent of Respondents Believe in a Recovery

General economic trends are seen as less auspicious. 28 percent (+11 pp) of those surveyed have noticed a worsening in the general economic climate, and 23 percent (+8 pp) assume that the economic climate will worsen further. This is not yet a concern, but currently only 20 percent (unchanged) believe that the economy will recover.

The majority of the population believes that Switzerland will be doing better in ten years in terms of cohesiveness between the language regions (65 percent, -8 pp), the environment (61 percent, +8 pp) and cooperation among the most important political parties (51 percent, -4 pp). Those surveyed predict the spread of poverty (64 percent, +0 pp), as well as a more disadvantageous age distribution in the Swiss population (57 percent, +2 pp). There is a tie in terms of responses to the question of whether co-existence with foreigners will improve (48 percent, -2 pp) or worsen (48 percent, +3 pp).