Security 2016. The Trend of Opinions on Foreign, Security, and Defense Policy
This survey is part of the study series "Security". This series of studies is based on a representative survey of security policy opinion-forming in Switzerland carried out in 1983. This survey was conducted at the Institute of Sociology Unitobler University of Bern by K. Haltiner and was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (NRP No. 11 "Security Policy", Project 4.418.104.22.168). Since 1991, opinion-forming in security policy has been collected annually since January/February and published under the title "Security". At the same time, the survey was expanded to include questions on foreign policy and the general feeling of security. The project is now being led by the Military Sociology Lectureship of the Military Academy at ETH Zurich and the Center for Security Studies of ETH Zurich.
The aim of these surveys is to identify trends and tendencies with regard to the general perception of security and threats, confidence in institutions and authorities, the degree of cooperation in foreign and security policy, neutrality in general and different views of neutrality, attitudes towards military defence and the interest in security policy. In addition to a core of questions that are asked at all times or at irregular intervals, they are also asked annually on current security policy issues. In 2016 these were: measures to maintain internal security, division of tasks between police and private security companies, assessment of contact with the police and private security companies, fear of crime, subjective feeling of security in public space, and an open question as to which tasks the Swiss army should fulfil from the point of view of the Swiss electorate. In addition to the trend analysis, the series of studies also focuses on the question of the extent to which attitudes towards the three issues (general security, foreign policy and defence policy) are related to living conditions and political orientation.
General sense of security: The Swiss feel secure, but are somewhat less optimistic about Switzerland’s future. Their estimation of the global political situation is significantly more pessimistic than in the previous year. There is little fear of crime. Four of five respondents feel safe in public areas.
Confidence in authorities and institutions: In 2016 the Swiss population has significantly more confidence in the police, the courts and the armed forces than in 2015. The police and the judiciary continue to enjoy the highest levels of confidence, followed by the Federal Council and the Swiss economy. The armed forces and the Federal Parliament are in the lower middle range, while the political parties and the media are viewed most critically by the Swiss. Confidence in the media has decreased significantly.
Measures to safeguard internal security: Specific measures to safeguard internal security are more strongly supported by the Swiss population whereas general measures are less strongly supported in comparison with previous years. An increase in the number of police officers is clearly supported, and the use of armed forces personnel to assist police forces when the latter are confronted with overwhelming demands enjoys significantly more approval.
Freedom versus Security: While the fight against terrorism enjoys high priority, demands for combatting both left-wing and right-wing extremism have decreased within the same time period, though combatting the latter still enjoys the support of a clear majority. In view of the current threat of terrorism, citizens attach greater priority to security considerations than they do to personal freedoms.
Autonomy and willingness to open up: In 2016 the Swiss population’s willingness to open up is less evident. While support for economic and political autonomy remains strong, the demand for military autonomy has slightly increased and the demand for absolute autonomy has slightly decreased. Support for joining Nato or the EU decreased in 2016 and remains the position of a minority. Economic cooperation with the EU continues to meet with strong approval. There is less support for granting development aid than in the previous year. A majority support the idea of Switzerland making Swiss peacekeeping forces available to the UN.
Neutrality: Abolishing Swiss neutrality continues to be clearly rejected by the Swiss
electorate in 2016. The principle of neutrality enjoys the same high level of support
as in 2015. The function of neutrality among the Swiss population is deemed to be
of the same value this year as last year.
Necessity of the armed forces: The attitude of the Swiss population towards the
necessity of the armed forces significantly increased in 2016, reaching a peak level.
Satisfaction with the armed forces: Satisfaction with the performance of the armed
forces has continuously increased since 2013. This increase is significant in 2016.
Defense expenditures: The evaluation of defense spending in the Swiss population
has remained stable over the course of the year and reached – as in 2015 – a peak
level for the measurement period beginning in 1986, since which time approval
has been accompanied by cumulative support for similar or higher expenditures.
Militia armed forces and conscription: Again in 2016 a majority of the population
prefers the militia armed forces to an all-volunteer force, and abolishing conscription
continues to be supported by only a minority.
General methodical procedure for trend surveys based on annually repeated cross-sectional surveys. The questionnaire consists of three parts:
a) Questions asked annually,
(b) questions raised at irregular intervals,
c) and new questions.
Questions on the distribution of tasks between the police and private security companies, the assessment of contact with the police and private security companies, the fear of crime, the subjective feeling of security in public areas, open question as to which tasks the Swiss army should fulfil from the point of view of the Swiss electorate, and some questions on measures to maintain internal security were raised for the first time in 2016. For this reason, a quantitative pretest was carried out and it was of interest whether the respondents were able to answer the questions. Following the pretest, the question formulations were optimized. Finally, to check the comprehensibility of all questions and interviewing before the field phase, test interviews were conducted in the different national languages. The questionnaires were designed in German and then translated into French and Italian. The Helvetic question formulations were deliberately chosen, as the interviews in German-speaking Switzerland were mostly conducted in Swiss-German (mouth type).
The attitudes surveyed here may have been influenced by the following five events:
• The ongoing crisis in the Ukraine, which began in autumn/winter 2013 and has continued into 2015/2016.
• The refugee crisis in Europe, caused by the civil war in Syria and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
• The increased threat of terror in Europe, caused by the Islamist-motivated terror attacks in Paris (7 January 2015, 13 November 2013).
• The sexual assaults against women on New Year’s Eve 2015 by young men of Muslim origin in several German cities.
• From 20 – 23 January, 2016, the armed forces carried out a subsidiary WEF deployment for the benefit of the civil authorities of the Canton of Grison in Davos.
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