Better Than Other Countries?
According to a majority of voters, Switzerland should take a more assertive stance in its foreign policy. They see the image of the country abroad as still being very positive – but Swiss self-confidence is not boundless.
For 61 percent of those surveyed as part of the 2015 Credit Suisse Worry Barometer, one of the main concerns is the relationship with foreigners in Switzerland, including refugees and asylum seekers. Concerns about immigration are associated with Switzerland's relationship to other countries. Most important in this regard is the European Union, by far the main source of immigrants.
A More Critical View on Switzerland's Reputation
Has Switzerland's reputation suffered since voters approved the initiative against mass immigration? Yes, but not dramatically, according to those surveyed. While two years ago 31 percent of Swiss voters believed that the country's image abroad had worsened in the past year, now 38 percent believe this. On the other hand, 40 percent of voters believe that Switzerland's image has improved.
Accordingly, a majority of 73 percent (-3 percentage points, or pp, since 2014) consider Switzerland's image abroad to be good or even very good. However, the share of voters who hold a critical view has risen to 25 percent, a significant increase (14 pp).
The confidence manifested in these figures is related, not least, to views of the country's economic strength. As in the past, 93 percent expressed the opinion that Switzerland's economy is better than that of other countries; for 28 percent, it was even "very good" by comparison. Nevertheless, this optimism is increasingly tinged by critical voices, and some uncertainty is evident, particularly with regard to Switzerland's political behavior. While in 2013 two thirds of voters felt that policymakers took a defensive stance, this camp is now approximately equal to those who hold the opposite view. Currently 44 percent (-5 pp) feel that Swiss politicians are assertive in foreign policy affairs, while 49 percent (+2 pp) consider their posture defensive.
However, as in the past, a clear majority of 64 percent (-15 pp) support their policymakers and would like them to take an (even more) assertive posture in the next twelve months. At the same time, the number of respondents who would like to see a judicious and more defensive approach is higher than ever before: 30 percent (+13 pp) compared to the previous high of 22 percent in 2012.
Would the European Economic Area Be an Alternative?
When asked specifically about Switzerland's future relationship with the European Union, most Swiss voters endorse the status quo, that is, continuation of the bilateral treaties. Continuation would be approved as a first priority by 47 percent (-3 pp) and as a second priority by another 13 percent (-3 pp). Joining the EEA would be considered as an alternative to be seriously explored, as a first priority according to 18 percent (+6 pp) and as a second priority according to another 28 percent (-1 pp). When asked about going one step further and joining the European Union, only 8 percent (+4 pp) would be willing as a first priority, while another 15 percent (+5 pp) would be willing as a second priority. Meanwhile, 18 percent (-6 pp) support terminating the bilateral agreements as a first priority and 6 percent (-1 pp) support this as a second priority.
When the various positions are categorized by political party, the following picture emerges (first priority): Those in favor of continuing the bilateral agreements are primarily sympathizers of the CVP (55 percent), the SP and the FDP (49 percent), while the least likely supporters were SVP sympathizers (41 percent) and independents (33 percent). The greatest support for terminating the bilateral agreements is found among voters for the SVP (24 percent) and the SP (22 percent), as well as independents (20 percent), with significantly less support among FDP (16 percent) and CVP (13 percent) sympathizers.
Those most likely to vote for the EEA are respondents close to the FDP (22 percent) and independent voters (21 percent), followed by sympathizers of the SVP (19 percent), CVP (18 percent) and SP (13 percent). Those who could least imagine joining the European Union include followers of the FDP (5 percent), the SVP (7 percent) and the SP (8 percent), while CVP sympathizers were more likely to consider it (13 percent). Voters who feel no ties to any party were most in favor of the idea (15 percent). According to these data, a new party advocating EU membership would probably not carry the country, but it would presumably have a certain potential for attracting voters.