On behalf of Credit Suisse, research institute gfs.bern surveyed Swiss voters once again this year about their worries and the country's identifying characteristics. At 39%, environmental pollution (environmental protection, climate change, environmental disasters) is Switzerland's new number-one concern (respondents were each asked to name their five top concerns). This figure is the same as last year; however, the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic – which easily topped the list in both 2020 (51%) and 2021 (40%) – has evidently become just an everyday problem at 13% and disappeared from the list of top concerns means the environment has moved up to the number-one spot this year. The topic of AHV/retirement provision lies in second place at 37%.
But what specific effect has Russia's invasion of Ukraine – which began on February 24 – had on the Worry Barometer? Although the war is directly cited as a concern by only 20% of the population (eighth place), there are at least three other top worries associated with the conflict in Ukraine. Concern about energy issues, for instance, is up massively at 25% (+11 percentage points, pp) and now ranks third on the list of worries – in percentage terms on a par with concerns about the shape of relations with Europe and the EU. For the first time, uncertainty about the supply of energy, medicines, and food was mentioned by 21% of respondents (seventh place). While the main concern is primarily about ensuring the supply of energy in uncertain times and in winter, anxiety about energy issues is likely to affect the future energy situation in general – in other words, what Switzerland's energy strategy will look like in the coming years, and where compromises may be unavoidable in terms of environment, nature conservation, and with regard to technologies such as nuclear power. Inflation (fifth place, 24%) is another new entrant among the top five concerns. Healthcare – traditionally a key concern – is also cited by 24%, having been as high as 41% in 2018 and 2019. Finally, in ninth and tenth place are the two concerns involving migration issues (foreigners and refugees/asylum issues).
Swiss voters are less optimistic about the (economic) future than was the case only a couple of years ago. However, this is not primarily down to fear of losing their job: On the contrary, unemployment has fallen out of the top ten concerns for the first time since 1988. Rather, the uncertainty revolves around the supply situation as well as whether and how the standard of living to which people are accustomed can be maintained amid the current circumstances and multiple crises. Voters' assessment of their own economic situation does not yet show any deviation versus previous years, with 65% (+0 pp) of respondents describing it as good or very good, and only 6% (+0 pp) as bad or very bad. However, a look at the coming 12 months shows a significantly different picture: No less than 19% (+9 pp) fear a worsening of their personal circumstances – the highest percentage in the survey's 27-year history.
Against this background, it is reassuring to note that at the same time trust in the three important institutions of the Federal Council (68%), police (67%), and the Federal Supreme Court (66%) is broad-based and stable. At a lower level, the same applies to the other institutions mentioned in the survey, such as the Swiss National Bank, Council of States, National Council, and political parties – indeed there is even evidence of a slight upward trend here. Although pride in being Swiss has tended to dip slightly, it remains very high at 77% (–1 pp). The armed forces have been the biggest gainers in terms of confidence (+8 pp to 48%), reflecting an increased need for security in uncertain geopolitical times.
In May 2021, the Federal Council announced it was unilaterally ending the talks – which date back to 2014 – about an institutional framework agreement between Switzerland and the EU. Now that some time has elapsed, what do voters think about this policy decision? The Credit Suisse Worry Barometer shows that 49% (–2 pp versus 2021) of voters consider the decision to be fairly/very correct, while 42% (+2 pp) think the opposite. Of the eight options available for regulating future relations with the EU, the negotiation of an institutional framework agreement is still clearly favored – and in percentage terms is on a par with further development of the Bilateral Agreements. In second place – and representing a change from the previous year – is accession to the EEA, which is now considered a better route than suspending the Bilateral Agreements without further development. Termination of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons is still mentioned as a possible solution, while rejection of the Bilateral Agreements – or indeed a special relationship with the EU – is considered just as implausible an option as EU accession.
In the eyes of respondents, therefore, discussions on an institutional framework agreement must continue given that 76% consider stable relations between Switzerland and the EU to be important. The same figure is arrived at for the Bilateral Agreements themselves, meaning a clear majority consider it important to achieve a breakthrough in negotiations with the EU. Many are looking to the Federal Council in particular, with 40% saying responsibility lies with the national government and 21% with the Swiss delegates in Brussels. Only 14% consider the EU to be chiefly responsible. Altogether, therefore, a clear majority of 61% of eligible voters believe that the ball is now primarily in the Swiss government's court when it comes to developing ties with the EU. This opinion has been voiced by members of all political parties.
What are the biggest worries for Swiss voters? How much confidence do they have in political, business, and social leaders? For the past 46 years, Credit Suisse has conducted an annual Worry Barometer survey to examine precisely these issues. With the Worry Barometer, Credit Suisse aims to contribute to the public debate on issues of socio-political relevance. From July to August 2022, the research institute gfs.bern surveyed 1,774 eligible voters across Switzerland on behalf of Credit Suisse. The statistical sampling error is ±2.3 percentage points.