Security 2018. 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 4.4184.108.40.206). 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.
2018, a possible mandatory orientation day for women and the fight against terrorism.
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 2018 the Swiss generally
feel very safe. Moreover, they are significantly more optimistic about Switzerland’s
future and less pessimistic about future developments with regard to the global political
situation. Fear of crime is minimal and has not changed in comparison with the previous
year. Significantly more respondents feel safe in public areas.
Trust in Authorities and Institutions: The police and the judiciary continue to enjoy
the highest levels of trust, followed by the Federal Council and the Swiss economy. The
armed forces and the parliament occupy the middle range of values. Newly, the media
occupies the second-lowest position on the trust index, just above the political parties.
The average trust in authorities and institutions surveyed remains the same as in the
previous year, whereas trust in the media has risen significantly compared to the previous
year while trust in the armed forces and the parliament has significantly decreased.
Freedom and Security: The Swiss ascribe equal values to security and freedom. If, however,
these two concepts are mentioned within the context of the fight against terrorism,
restrictions on freedom are tolerated by a clear majority. As the approval for more
vigorous combatting of right-wing extremism remains at a high level, significantly more
respondents support more intensive combatting of left-wing extremism.
Autonomy and Willingness to Open Up: Again, in 2018 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. While moderate forms of cooperation without
institutional ties are supported by a majority of the population, cooperative forms which
would require institutional ties are clearly rejected. Establishing closer ties with institutions
like the EU or NATO, as well as joining such institutions, is hence only supported
by a small number of respondents. The use of Switzerland’s good services for purposes
of mediation and conflict resolution continues to enjoy majority support. However,
approval for increasing development aid has decreased significantly, yet still enjoys support
by a majority.
Neutrality: The Swiss population clearly supports Swiss neutrality, with the principle
of neutrality enjoying almost unanimous approval. The perception that Switzerland’s
close economic and political ties make the exercise of neutrality impossible lost support in 2018. Approval for differential neutrality reached the lowest value yet measured and is
only accepted by just under half of the Swiss population.
Attitudes towards the Swiss Armed Forces: A clear majority of the Swiss consider the
Swiss Armed Forces necessary. Satisfaction with the performance of the armed forces is
average and the militia system is supported by a majority of the population. One half of
the respondents perceive the level of defense expenditures to be exactly right. A majority
support an obligatory orientation day for women. The Swiss currently exhibit a positive
attitude towards the armed forces. However, the level of awareness concerning the reform
project Armed Forces Development (AFD) is very limited.
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 views on terrorism and a compulsory orientation day for women were raised in 2018 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 opinions of the 1209 respondents may have been influenced by the following events:
• The armed conflict in Syria.
• The discussion concerning the withdrawal of Great Britain from the European
• The differences between the EU and Switzerland concerning the continuation of
the Framework Agreement between Switzerland and the EU.
• The introduction of the reform program Armed Forces Development (AFD) on
1 January, 2018, and the beginning of the recruit schools on 15 January, 2018.
• The subsidiary WEF deployment of the Swiss Armed Forces for the benefit of the
civil authorities of the Canton of Graubünden in Davos and the visit of U.S.
president Donald Trump.
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