From Greens to populists: How the Swiss election is shaping up

George Mills
George Mills - [email protected] • 7 Jun, 2019 Updated Fri 7 Jun 2019 09:05 CEST
From Greens to populists: How the Swiss election is shaping up

Green is shaping up to be the colour of the year in Swiss politics, a new poll that looks towards the country's general elections in October suggests, but support for the populist right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) is falling.


Support for Switzerland’s Greens party is now at 10.1 percent, according to the latest Election Barometer commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation.

That’s three percentage points higher than the result achieved by the party in the Swiss general election of 2015 and if the trend holds, the Greens could hit double digits for the first time in their history.

Read also: Is Switzerland bad for the environment?

The smaller Green Liberal Party (GLP) is also riding the green wave with 6.4 percent of people saying they will cast their vote for the group. In 2015, the GLP picked up just 4.6 percent of the vote.

By contrast, support for the right-wing and anti-immigration Swiss People’s Party (SVP) is down 2.9 percent on 2015 levels to 26.5 percent. That is still enough to ensure the party remains the largest force in the national parliament, but the result would be seen as a set-back given the group appeared to be going from strength to strength four years ago.

And in a surprise trend which bucks the historical pattern, the rise of the Greens in the latest poll has not eaten into support for the Socialists (SP). The left-wing party is the party of choice for 19.1 percent of voters, up 0.3 percent on 2015.

The picture is slightly less rosy for the centre-right Radicals (FDP) who have seen support slip 0.2 percentage points to 16.2 percent.

Green policies a main electoral battleground

Meanwhile, environmental policies are shaping up as one of the main electoral battlegrounds in the Swiss general elections of 2019 – a year which has seen the country's students join in global climate change protests inspired by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg.

A total of 38 percent of voters said the issue of climate change and carbon emissions was among the three most pressing problems facing Switzerland, behind health insurance premiums (42 percent) and equal with the percentage of people who cited Swiss relations with the EU as a top-three concern.

Crucially, the SRG poll also found that the issue of climate change and carbon emissions was more likely to influence how people plan to vote than any other subject.

Read also: New platform gives foreigners in Switzerland 'chance to vote'

Almost one in four people polled (24 percent) said this issue would affect their vote, ahead of Swiss relations with the EU as a decisive factor (22 percent) and health insurance premiums – cited by 18 percent of respondents.

Not surprisingly, voters for left-wing parties were more likely to say green issues would affect how they voted.

For SVP voters, on the other hand, the issue of immigration and foreigners was most important, with 58 percent saying this subject would influence how they cast their ballot.

However, the issues of health insurance premiums and EU relations were important for voters across the political spectrum.

There are serious differences when it comes to age too. A total of 31 percent of voters aged 18–25 said the issue of the environment would affect their vote. For people 75 and over, the figure was 17 percent.

Health insurance premiums are more important for older voters when it comes to choosing who to vote for, while relations with the EU influence voter intentions more equally across all age groups.

Read also: Ten things you need to know about the Swiss political system

A green headache for The Radicals

The importance of the green issue is also causing headaches for the FDP, which is Switzerland's big business party.

A total of 27 percent of FDP voters say they are unhappy with the party's environmental policies despite recent attempts by the leadership to polish off its green credentials.

Two thirds of people in this group of dissatisfied FDP voters said they wanted more effective environmental policies while 54 percent of all FDP voters said they were in favour of climate protection measures even when these had a direct impact on daily cost of living.

A lack of a better alternative

The FDP also scored badly when it comes to why voters support them. Just 39 percent of the party’s supporters said they voted for it because they were “completely convinced” by its stance, while 40 percent said they did so because “there is no better alternative”.

Only the SVP scored worse here. A total of 42 percent of SVP voters said there was no better choice in terms of who to vote for.

For the Greens, this figure was just 16 percent while 63 percent said they were completely convinced by the party’s politics.

The SRG Barometer was run from May 17th to May 21st with results based on analysis of 10,388 online surveys. Respondents were self-selected.



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