On Tuesday 28 May 2019, the Military Academy at ETH Zurich and the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich published the annual survey “Sicherheit 2019”. Since 1999, the study has evaluated long-term trends and tendencies in public opinion on foreign, security and defense policy issues in Switzerland.
“Sicherheit” is based on representative surveys conducted each year. As well as including a core set of questions that are always addressed or asked at irregular intervals, the survey also deals with current issues of security policy. In line with this, “Sicherheit 2019” focuses on the relations between the US and Switzerland, the global political situation, attitudes towards equal opportunities within the Swiss Armed Forces and communication efforts by the Swiss military. Here, we provide a summary of the findings of this year’s survey.
Sense of Security and Perception of Switzerland
The 2019 survey finds that the Swiss generally feel very secure. Respondents were optimistic about Switzerland’s future, citing the good economic situation and Switzerland’s political system as reasons for their optimistic assessment of the future. Just as in last year’s survey, fear of crime remained low. Further, four out of five respondents said that they felt safe in the public sphere in the 2019 survey.
Trust in Authorities and Institutions
The police continue to enjoy the highest level of trust in 2019 among authorities and institutions in Switzerland. The courts occupy second place in terms of trust, followed by the Federal Council and the Swiss economy. The Federal Parliament and the armed forces enjoy the same degree of trust. As in the previous year, the media and political parties ranked last in the trust index. Average trust in the authorities and institutions surveyed increased significantly compared to the last year. In addition, trust in the Federal Parliament and the political parties also increased significantly compared to the previous year.
Perception of the Global Political Situation
The future development of the global political situation was perceived significantly more pessimistically than in the previous year. The analysis of the reasons for this development indicate that, above all, the power politics of the USA, China and Russia are seen to be a threat to the world. What is striking is the fact that US President Donald Trump was often mentioned by name as the cause of the pessimistic assessment of the global political situation. The majority of respondents said they believe that US policy is detrimental to the Swiss economy, but they still regard the US as a reliable trading partner.
Autonomy and Willingness to Open Up to the World
The limited willingness of Swiss citizens to open up to the world continued to be evident in 2019. The level of support for economic and political autonomy remains high. While moderate forms of cooperation without institutional ties were supported by a majority of respondents, forms of cooperation that would involve institutional integration into international organizations were clearly rejected. Establishing closer ties with or joining institutions such as the EU or NATO are hence only popular with a small minority. Switzerland’s good services were supported by a large majority and, when compared to the previous year, a significantly greater number of respondents approved of an increase in development aid.
The principle of Swiss neutrality is almost unanimously supported by the Swiss electorate. For the second time in a row in the survey, approval of differential neutrality reached a historic low. Even if Switzerland’s neutrality no longer brought any advantages, the Swiss population would still want to adhere to it. Support for this opinion increased significantly compared to the previous year, indicating that Swiss people attach great importance to neutrality.
Attitudes Towards the Swiss Armed Forces
The necessity of the Swiss Armed Forces is supported by a clear majority of Swiss citizens. Based on the results of the survey, they are satisfied with the performance of the armed forces. Approval of the militia system as a form of defense and recruitment has increased significantly. A majority of the respondents said they hold the opinion that just enough or even too little gets spent on defense. The survey also indicates that the Swiss are satisfied with the communication of the Armed Forces. In addition, the interviewees clearly hold the opinion that equal opportunity is important in the armed forces.
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