Security 2017. 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 4.4188.8.131.52). 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.
Sense of security and perception of Switzerland and the world: In 2017, the Swiss generally feel very safe and see the future optimistically. Average values over the long term are at a high level and have increased significantly relative to 2016. As in the previous year, the global political situation is viewed pessimistically. Fear of crime is minimal and, in comparison with the previous year, has slightly decreased. Fewer respondents feel safe in public areas than in 2016. Such sentiments are currently held by four of five respondents.
Confidence in authorities and institutions: The Swiss electorate has significantly more confidence in the media and political parties than in the previous year. The police and the judiciary continue to enjoy the highest levels of confidence, followed by the Federal Council. Confidence in the armed forces and the Swiss economy remains exactly the same and, with the parliament, occupy the middle range of values. The political parties and the media are viewed most critically by the Swiss. Confidence in authorities and institutions has increased slightly overall in comparison to the previous year.
Fighting extremism and terrorism: There is greater support for the fight against extremism and terrorism in the population. Significantly more Swiss people are in favour of intensifying the fight against left-wing extremism and terrorism. About a third of the population have altered their travel behaviour as a consequence of worldwide terrorism.
Autonomy and willingness to open up: In 2017, the Swiss population’s limited willingness to open up continues to be evident. The desire for economic and political independence remains at a high level. Support for closer ties with the EU/Nato or even joining the EU and/or Nato remains at a very low level and is only approved of by a small minority. Support for economic cooperation with the EU is very considerable and has remained constant relative to the previous year. Switzerland’s role as a mediator continues to be approved by a large majority.
Neutrality: The principle of neutrality enjoys the same high level of approval in 2017 and is almost unanimously supported. However, significantly more Swiss people are of the opinion that neutrality today can no longer be credibly preserved by military means. Moreover, the view that Switzerland’s narrow economic and political interrelations undermine neutrality has gained approval.
Attitudes towards the Swiss Armed Forces: The conviction among the Swiss population
that the armed forces are a necessity has slightly decreased. Over the long term, however,
this view persists at a very high level. The respondents view the armed forces as vital for
Swiss society. Support for very well trained and fully equipped armed forces remains high,
although support for the latter significantly decreased relative to 2016. The majority of
the Swiss electorate supports the militia system. The Swiss are just as satisfied this year
with the performance of the Swiss Armed Forces as in the previous year and cumulatively
approve of equally high or higher expenditures for the Swiss military. Over the long term
the respondents have thus exhibited a very positive attitude towards the armed forces.
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 changes in travel behaviour caused by terroristic attacks abroad were raised for the first time in 2017 for the first time. 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 tensions between Russia and the EU resulting from the crisis in Ukraine.
• The refugee debate in Europe.
• The discussion concerning the withdrawal of Great Britain from the EU (Brexit).
• The terrorist attack of 19.12.2016 on the Christmas market in Berlin and the attack on a nightclub in Istanbul on New Year’s Eve.
• The subsidiary WEF deployment of the Swiss Armed Forces for the benefit of the civil authorities of the Canton of Graubünden in Davos.
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