VOX-analysis: health and taxes as primary motive in the February referendums

02.04.2022 | Tobias Keller, GFS Bern

On 13 February, voters voted twice for the health of the population and twice against new sources of financing for companies and corporations.

This is verified by the results of the survey among 3168 voters in the VOX analysis of February 2022. The study was conducted by gfs.bern and financed by the Federal Chancellery..


The Yes vote for the tobacco advertising ban is a clear signal for the protection of the health of children and young people. For this, negative economic consequences, for example less sponsorship money for events, are also accepted. The “no” vote on the ban on animal experiments was also based on health concerns: Swiss voters do not want to compromise on medical care and Switzerland as a centre of science. The two “no” votes on stamp duty and the media package came about because the distribution of money was perceived as unfair: the electorate saw no reason why corporations and companies should no longer have to pay stamp duty – above all because they were concerned that they would have to pay more taxes. The central argument for the media package is similar: no more tax money should be spent on subsidising the media. That would have made the media more dependent, damaged their credibility and distorted the market.


Clear signal for the protection of Switzerland as a research location

The popular initiative to ban animal and human experimentation called for an unconditional ban on animal and human experimentation and on the import of products developed in this way. The electorate clearly rejected the initiative. Neither older nor younger, neither left nor right-wingers – not even among those who strongly trust animal protection organisations: No majority could be formed for the initiative. The motives of the “yes” voters were twofold: they wanted to strengthen the protection of animals and they called on science to arrive at new findings without animal and human experimentation. But the opinion that this progress is possible without these experiments was very controversial. For the No voters, the experiments are essential, protect Switzerland as a research location and ensure medical care. In addition, the vast majority of the population believes that the current number of animal experiments is limited to what is absolutely necessary. Accordingly, it is more important to the electorate that medical care is guaranteed and that Switzerland is not weakened as a centre of science than that animal protection is expanded.


Better protect children from the temptation of smoking

The ban on tobacco advertising calls for comprehensive protection for children and young people from tobacco advertising – including e-cigarettes. The Federal Council and Parliament have drafted an indirect counter-proposal. The popular initiative was accepted by the electorate. Younger, more highly educated – and the majority of the middle class voted yes. There was also a lot of support from the left and central political spectrum. On the other hand, the majority of FDP and SVP sympathisers were against the initiative. Those who voted against find personal responsibility and more free competition more important. For them, the advertising ban is useless and endangers a free society with too many bans. However, the vast majority – including those who voted against – see it as their duty to protect children and young people and to promote their healthy development. For the Yes voters, it is therefore clear that the advertising ban will protect children and promote the health of the population. Thus, the electorate is sending a clear signal for stronger protection of children and young people – and is thus accepting an encroachment on economic freedom.


No tax relief for companies and corporations

The amendment to the Stamp Duty Act aimed at abolishing the stamp duty. This would have provided relief for companies in economically difficult times and could have strengthened economic growth. The referendum committee argued that large corporations, banks and insurance companies would benefit the most – but they did not need relief. Although the amendment received support from the SVP, FDP, the centre and GLP, it was rejected. Only people who consider themselves “right-wing” and sympathisers of the SVP and FDP voted in favour of the amendment. Yes voters are also characterised by their high level of trust in business associations, banks and large corporations. The vast majority of the electorate, however, saw things differently. For them, support for the business location was not important enough. For them, it is central that primarily corporations benefit from this, that the population has to pay the tax shortfall out of their own pockets and that the change is an opaque tax relief for the rich. The electorate is therefore counting on the economy being stable enough to grow with stamp duty even in difficult times.


The market economy regulates the media industry and the media remain independent

Switzerland’s media landscape is undergoing major changes. To ensure the quality and diversity of the media, a media package was drafted that would promote online media, provide greater support for local radio and regional television and expand the delivery of subscription newspapers. The referendum committee argued against this, saying that the tax money would flow into media corporations, that the support would distort the market and make the media dependent. The majority of the electorate also found this line of argument more convincing, which is why the media package was rejected. There are clear differences between those who voted Yes and those who voted No: the majority of those who voted Yes were 18-29 year-olds, people on the left, those who sympathise with the Greens, the SP, the GLP and the centre, and those who have a high level of trust in SRG SSR, local and regional media, media groups and journalists. They wanted to expand media diversity, offer financial support and strengthen democracy. But they were in the minority. For the majority, which included older people, SVP and FDP sympathisers and people with little trust in the media, it was clear that the media package would lead to an unfair distribution of funds, threaten democracy by making media dependent on the state and untrustworthy, and distort the market economy, which also regulates the media industry. The question of whether the larger subsidies make the media dependent on the state has polarised the electorate the most. Thus, the electorate is backing the market economy to ensure the media’s independence from the state and to keep the media credible.


2022 starts with low mobilisation and proposals with deep personal significance

The turnout on 13 February 2022 was comparatively low at around 44 per cent. In November 2021, a very high mark of 65.7 per cent was reached, which was also due to the very mobilising voting proposals (e.g. COVID-19 law). In comparison, the importance ratings of the February vote are much lower: the bills received an importance rating between 5.6 and 6.6 on a 10-point scale, which means they were not rated nearly as important as the November 2021 vote on the Covid-19 law (8.8).

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Tobias Keller

Tobias Keller

Project manager and Team Lead Data Analytics