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Vote February 10, 2019 Support for environmental initiative drops away

Two single detached houses behind a hill

Supporters of the initiative argue only a freeze on constructions can prevent urban sprawl. Opponents say such restrictions could be counter-productive.  

(Sophie Stieger / 13 Photo)

A people’s initiative to curb urban sprawl in Switzerland has lost backing ahead of next month’s nationwide vote. Pollsters expect a majority of voters to reject the proposal by the youth chapter of the Green Party.

The latest survey, which was published on Wednesday, found the initiative losing 16% compared with a previous poll carried out by the leading GfS Bern research institute a month earlier. It currently has the support of 47% of respondents.

For further details see chart and info box below.


Chart GfS Bern's opinion poll on urban sprawl initiative

Lukas Golder, GfS Bern director, says opponents of the initiative currently only have a slight edge over supporters with 49% but all indicators point to more than 50% of No votes on February 10.

“The changes from the first to the second poll are quite significant and rejection of the initiative is likely,” the political scientist added.

Pollsters found respondents close to leftwing parties and parts of the political right coming out in favour, typically also women and residents in cities. But centre-right grassroots groups, as well as citizens in rural areas increasingly reject the initiative launched by the youth wing of the Green Party nearly four years ago. 

Higher rents and existing law

Golder says many respondents agree in principle with the criticism of environmentalists who want to freeze the creation of new building zones across the country to prevent settlements from eating into open areas and ‘defacing’ the landscape for future generations.

Nevertheless, the combination of three counter-arguments appear to be more convincing: Concern over alleged increases for rented property, potential damage to the economy, and the conviction that the current law, endorsed in a nationwide vote in 2013, is better suited to tackle existing problems.

“As a rule, it is hard for the political left and the Greens in Switzerland to win votes if the opponents have enough good arguments,” says Golder.

“The left can put issues on the political agenda but it remains virtually impossible for them to anticipate all the potential flaws of an initiative,” he adds.

Golder says the environmental issues only stand a chance of winning support at the ballot box if they also appeal to more conservative voters. A case in point was the initiative to limit the construction of holiday homes, which was approved in 2012.

Pollsters say centre-right efforts to push for a rejection of the latest initiative is beginning to show and they expect a slightly below-average turnout overall on February 10.

Polling details

 Pollsters interviewed 4,699 Swiss citizens from all language regions across the country for the second of two nationwide surveys.

The survey is based on online responses as well as telephone interviews, both with fixed line and mobile phone users, and was carried out from January 16–23.

The margin of error is 2.7%.

The poll was commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC),’s parent company, and carried out by the GfS Bern research institute.

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