Secure, Peaceful, Neutral
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Secure, Peaceful, Neutral

A high level of satisfaction with the country, a great deal of national pride and optimism – is everything going well in Switzerland?

Swiss people are extraordinarily satisfied with their country. Currently, 89 percent of voters are very proud, or at least somewhat proud, of the Confederation. Although that is five percentage points (pp) lower than the record set in 2015, it reflects the average of the last five years and should therefore be weighted higher because there are no significant differences between sympathizers of different parties or residents of the country's different regions.

National pride is not the only area of agreement for many of those surveyed. There was also a broad consensus on the openly formulated question of which three things define Switzerland. Without being given a list of options to choose from, in recent years Swiss people almost always listed "Security and peace," "Neutrality" and "Scenery" as the main characteristics of Switzerland. This time 21 percent (+2pp) of the population chose security and peace as Switzerland's top characteristic, 15 percent (–17pp) chose neutrality, which was the topic of intense discussion during the anniversary year of the Battle of Marignano, while 14 percent (+1pp) chose the country's scenery. All of these aspects are fundamental for the understanding of Switzerland as "Home" (10 percent), a term that those surveyed obviously prefer using compared to "Patriotism" (5 percent).

Sicherheit, Frieden, Neutralität, Landschaft – Begriffe, die die Schweiz prägen.

As symbols of an intact economy, the "Social state" (11 percent), based on solidarity, as well as "Industry" (10 percent) contribute to preserving domestic security and peace. "Freedom of opinion" and the "Participatory democracy" (10 percent) are equally important to the Swiss. However, these two are not mentioned as often, in either short or long-term comparisons, possibly because they serve very personal fulfillment objectives as well as the country’s interests. By contrast, Switzerland’s various "cliché characteristics" such as "Wealth," "Precision," "Chocolate" and "Watchmaking" only receive 5 percent to 6 percent of the vote as a chief characteristic of the country.

Three Cardinal Strengths

There is a broad consensus among voters regarding Switzerland’s greatest strengths. In recent years, "Neutrality" (36 percent), "Swiss quality" (33 percent) and "Education" (30 percent) received the most mentions as one of the top five strengths. While neutrality has seen a degree of fluctuation at a high level, peaking in 2008 (50 percent), the trends of the other top two strengths were more linear.

After a constant increase to record levels in 2013 (46 percent), education now ranks third because fewer people have cited it as a strength for the past three years in a row. Perhaps that is why 93 percent of Swiss people consider promoting education an important political objective. "Quality" was also mentioned less often in the years 2012 through 2014. However, although this has changed recently, the results are still far below the peak seen in the years 2011/2012 (50 percent).

Agreement remains consistently high on the strengths "Order and cleanliness" (24 percent), "Participatory democracy" (24 percent) and "Peace" (23 percent), with the latter two experiencing a slight downward trend (each scored 35 percent in 2006). The negative trend in "Coexistence of cultures" is even more pronounced – numbers here have decreased by half from 36 percent to 18 percent over the same period. By contrast, the "Pharmaceutical industry" (from 12 percent to 24 percent) and "Health care" (from 15 percent to 24 percent) enjoyed positive trends. Switzerland as a "Financial center" reached 21 percent, after falling below 20 percent between 2009 and 2014.

Der Wohnkanton wird wichtiger.

One key question in Credit Suisse's Worry Barometer is which geographic unit respondents feel that they belong to, first and foremost. It appears that things are leveling off in this regard nationwide, since up until 2011 "Community" was the clear leader, with Switzerland as a whole taking the lead after that time. Now, for the first time, the canton of residence has taken the lead (28 percent, +4pp), but only slightly ahead of Switzerland (25 percent, –1pp), the community (22 percent, +3pp) and the language region (18 percent, –6pp). The number of Swiss people who primarily identify themselves with Europe or the world – after peaking in 2013 (12 percent) – has declined again to 7 percent (0pp). Despite the leveling off that was determined across Switzerland as a whole, there are large regional differences.

Egotism and New Poverty

The fundamentally optimistic attitude expressed in this year's survey in many areas is also reflected in the outlook for the future. Regarding the question on whether the situation will improve in selected areas, the numbers have doubled over the last ten years in some cases. Optimism is especially high with "Coexistence of cultures," which only one-eighth of the population currently considers a strength, with more than three-quarters of voters expecting a more or less distinct improvement. Well over two-thirds also anticipate improvement in cooperation among the major parties and progress on environmental issues as well.

Estimations of the spread of poverty among those surveyed are noteworthy. A majority here fear that the situation is worsening. This should be taken seriously, all the more so since when asked about threats to Switzerland's identity, 65 percent of voters answered egotism, which is almost as many as cited problems with the EU (68 percent) and immigration (77 percent). In other words, optimism is fine, but resting on our laurels is not an option.