Swiss narrowly positive towards pension reform

The plebiscite-loving Swiss will head to the polls on 24 September for the Alpine confederation’s third referendum date of 2017. Two linked votes on pension reform (including an increase in Value Added Tax to help finance it) will be held, and a proposal to improve Switzerland’s food security will also be put to citizens.

With campaigning about to enter its final phase, polling agency GFS Bern finds a very good majority supporting the food security proposition, but a far narrower one in favour of the government’s pension reform plans.

Reformers hold an 11-12 point lead on the two related pension questions, mustering 53 per cent support compared to 41 or 42 per cent against. Only a small number of respondents to the poll have not yet made up their minds. Supporters of the conservative SVP (Swiss People’s Party) and the centre-right/liberal FDP are most likely to be ‘No’ voters, with 55 and 51 per cent respectively against the reforms.

Inter-generational splits are surprisingly modest, with 18-39 year olds just four points less likely and both 40-64 and 65+ age groups only one point more likely to support reform than the overall average.

GFS presents a wealth of interesting data in its report, notably on how potential voters view the key arguments being deployed in the campaign: the feeling that it is time for a sensible compromise after 20 years of abortive pension reform attempts holds considerable sway, with 71 per cent agreeing to a greater or lesser degree.

The food security referendum appears to be far less controversial, with comfortable majorities across supporters of all the main parties as well as all three main language groups. However a higher number of voters are still undecided on the question.

55 per cent of those polled say they are certain to vote in September, which if realised would be an improvement on turnout for the four referenda already held this year – reflecting the high degree of public interest in the pension reform issue.


24 September referenda
Voting intentions, per cent


1. Reform of pension provision

For (certain 21 + likely 32) 53
Against (certain 23 + likely 19) 42
Don’t Know/No Response 5

2. Increase in VAT

For (certain 22 + likely 31) 53
Against (certain 22 + likely 19) 41
Don’t Know/No Response 6

3. Food security

For (certain 31 + likely 34) 65
Against (certain 11 + likely 7) 18
Don’t Know/No Response 17


Turnout (per cent)

Certain to vote 55
Likely to vote 29
Likely not to vote 8
Certain not to vote 4
Don’t Know/No response 4


Fieldwork: 31.07-10.08.2017. Publication: 18.08.2017. Participants: 1205. Methodology: Telephone interviews, weightings include party affiliation and past vote recall. Media partner: SRG-SSR (Swiss Broadcasting Corporation). Full reports on the GFS website here.


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