Close to half of the Swiss polled in the recent Vimentis survey would chose to introduce immigration quotas even if it meant the cancelation of European Union (EU) bilateral treaties – 45% held this view. By contrast only 41% would put preservation of the EU bilateral treaties ahead of immigration quotas. 14% were undecided on the issue.
51% thought that the number of immigrants should be no more than 50,000 per year, significantly below the 167,000 that came in 2013. The preferred criteria for setting limits were the labour market and the structure of the population. In addition, 69% thought that immigration should be constrained in response to an increase in unemployment.
Respondents were evenly split on the question of EU preference on matters of immigration. 44% thought all prospective immigrants should be considered equally while 48% were in favour of preferential treatment of EU/AELE citizens.
Furthermore 39% said that they were not happy with the state of Swiss politics. The main area of discontent was immigration, the chief issue for 35% of those surveyed.
This public mood helps to explain why the Swiss government submitted a bill on 11 February 2015 proposing immigration quotas. Prior to the submission of this bill there had been talk of the possibility of having a rerun of the referendum on 9 February 2014 when a slim majority of 50.3% of voters voted in favour of curbs on immigration.
This survey shows again that the Swiss are quite evenly divided on the issue of open EU/AELE immigration.
The results also suggest that sparks are likely to continue to fly in Brussels over this contentious issue with the Swiss government, caught between the polarised view of Swiss voters and the deal agreed with the EU.