Study title
Security Survey 2011. Swiss public opinion on Swiss foreign, defense and security policies
Ref study 10495
Study language German
Contributing institutions
  • Armée
  • Aussenpolitik
  • Sicherheitspolitik
  • Neutralität
  • Sicherheit
  • Militär
  • Verteidigungspolitik
  • Vertrauen
Geographical space
  • Switzerland
The annual "Security Survey", conducted jointly by the Military Academy at ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich) and the Center for Security Studies, ETH Zurich, serves to determine trends in Swiss public opinion-making of Swiss foreign, defense and security policies. It is based on annual representative surveys of the Swiss electorate. Apart from a set of questions often included in the survey in irregular intervals, there are always questions about current issues of security policy. In 2011, special attention was paid to the following topics: Associations with the term "security", awareness levels of various international deployments of the Swiss Armed Forces, assessment of the effectiveness of the Swisscoy deployment in Kosovo, satisfaction with the performance of the armed forces, approval rates of alternative service models and perception of positive and negative aspects of conscription.
General feeling of security: The Swiss feel secure but assess the international situation in less optimistic terms than they did one year ago. While the level of optimism regarding the national future and the general feeling of security had declined slightly in 2010, the results of January 2011 show an upward trend. In particular, optimism regarding Switzerland's future significantly increased by 15 percentage points. In the last twenty years, the Swiss have rarely felt as secure and optimistic about Switzerland as they did in January 2011. At the same time, the share of those who believe that the global political situation is becoming gloomier increased considerably by 11 percentage points.

Trust in institutions: The overall ranking remained almost unchanged compared to previous years: The police forces receive the highest level of trust. They are followed by the courts and this year also by the economy. The electorate has medium levels of trust in the federal authorities and the armed forces and low levels of trust in the media and political parties. Notably, this year the courts lost a considerable amount of trust, while trust in the political parties and, for the second time, in the Federal Parliament saw a moderate decline. Like it did in 2010, the Swiss economy is the only institution to gain trust.

Autonomy and willingness to open up: The pessimistic view of the global political situation seems to go hand in hand with the wish for greater autonomy. Since the publication of the first "Security Survey", the Swiss have never been as skeptical about the EU as they are this year. Within a year, support for closer relations with the EU or a bid for EU membership has strongly declined by 13 and 12 percentage points respectively. Meanwhile, Switzerland's economic and political independence has never been more vehemently demanded than this year. Cooperation with the UN is supported by a constant two-thirds majority. International cooperation without institutional commitments compromising Switzerland's sovereignty is still endorsed by a majority, although support for such a cooperation has slightly decreased.

Neutrality: Abolishing Swiss neutrality remains unthinkable with almost ninety percent of the Swiss standing behind this principle. In fact, there is a long-term trend of increasing approval of neutrality. The solidarity and identity function of neutrality is still highly approved of, although support for the solidarity function slightly decreased. The security function is also approved of, albeit at a lower level. In particular, there are doubts about the feasibility of armed neutrality.

Armed forces: The Swiss electorate's attitude towards the armed forces is ambivalent. The Swiss consider the armed forces to be necessary and important, the population's demands for cost cuts have further decreased, the social prestige of a militia career is still high. At the same time, the Swiss have doubts about the defense ability of the armed forces, and confidence in the armed forces is still below the long-term average. Neither is there a consensus regarding the most suitable form of national defense or regarding the social relevance of the armed forces: The armed forces are just as often regarded as a necessary evil as they are believed to play a central role. Furthermore, half of the population thinks Switzerland should have a militia for national defense while the other half prefers an all-volunteer force. Nevertheless, the idea of a mandatory service for men is widely accepted, be it in the form of mandatory military service or in the form of a mandatory civil service. Women should not be forced to do mandatory military service, and foreigners should remain excluded from (voluntary) military service.

Deployments abroad: Deployments abroad are viewed more critically. For the first time since 1995, the question as to whether Swiss peacekeepers should be deployed abroad receives an equal number of supporters and opponents. The population knows little about international deployments of the Swiss Armed Forces. The most well known deployment - the Swisscoy mission in Kosovo - tends to be considered a success. However, the Swiss find it difficult to assess the possible outcome of this deployment.
Methods (description)
Jährlich wiederkehrende Querschnittsbefragung im Januar bei der Schweizer Stimmbevölkerung, 18++, Telefonbefragung
Methods (instruments)
  • Standardised interviews - by telephone
Replicated study No
  • Szvircsev Tresch, Tibor; Wenger, A.; Würmli, Silvia; Bisig, Esther. 2011. Sicherheit 2011. Aussen-, Sicherheits- und Verteidigungspolitische Meinungsbildung im Trend. Birmensdorf und Zürich: Militärakademie an der ETH und Center for Security Studies, ETH Zürich. Online:
Unpublished documents
  • Bisig, Esther; Würmli, Silvia. 2011. SWISSCOY: Public Acceptance, Legitimacy and Perceived Performance. Paper presented at the 11th ERGOMAS Conference 2011, June 13-17, Amsterdam.
Financed by
Ethical approval No
Study type
Data availability
Source (Updates) Web
Date created 23.07.2013
Date modified 23.07.2013
Start - End date 01.09.2010 - 28.05.2011