Voter analysis: Swiss youth less interested in EU membership

The analysis focused on post-election surveys of voters from 1995 to 2019. Keystone Martin Ruetschi

Young voters in Switzerland are more critical of the value of European Union (EU) membership than they were 30 years ago, according to an analysis of votes by the Swiss public broadcaster FRS.

This content was published on September 23, 2022 – 10:59


analysisExternal linkpublished on Friday, examined post-election surveys of voters from 1995 to 2019. In the 1990s, more than half (59.2%) of voters aged 18 to 34 wanted to join the EU while a just over 30% rejected the idea.

Since then, enthusiasm for the EU has dwindled considerably, writes SRF. In 2019, only 6.5% wanted to join the EU while more than three quarters (77.9%) wanted to remain independent. The decline can also be seen in other age groups, but not as extreme as among younger voters.

One reason may be that EU membership was only seriously discussed in the 1990s. “After the vote on the European Economic Area in 1992, the European question became a central political issue”, said political scientist Michael Hermann told SRF. It was a reaction to the openness after the Cold War. “For many, Europe was something to aspire to,” he added.

From the turn of the century, support for EU membership declined sharply. Hermann suggests that this could be due to the successful bilateral agreements between Switzerland and the EU as well as growing skepticism about the free movement of people and the euro crisis affecting many EU economies.

For today’s young voters, EU membership is not up for discussion. Fabio Wasserfallen, a professor at the University of Bern, added that young Swiss today benefit from the possibility of traveling and working freely throughout Europe. They do not know otherwise and therefore do not see what they would gain from joining the EU.

“Membership is particularly attractive to young people when they see it as a benefit,” Wasserfallen said. “It is difficult for young Swiss people today to understand why they need EU membership for their life prospects.”

The analysis also looked at voters across all political parties and found that the Social Democratic Party remains the most supportive of EU membership. In 2019, some 43% of voters in all age groups for this party were in favor, down from 75% in 1995. At the other end of the scale, only 1.5% of right-wing SVP voters were in favor of EU membership. , down from 11.3% in 1995.

The analysis of the votes was carried out by Smartvote on behalf of SRF and was based on data compiled by SwissUbaseExternal linkwhich archives data from Swiss universities.

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