Research - 29.09.2021 - 00:00 

Study: the 2021 Opportunity Barometer shows an optimistic Switzerland

Swiss people trust direct democracy and predominantly look ahead with optimism. This has been revealed by the 2021 Opportunity Barometer. The study was headed by political scientist Prof. Dr. Tina Freyburg.
Source: HSG Newsroom

29 September 2021. The opportunity barometer (Chancenbarometer) is a representative survey which is annually conducted in all the regions of Switzerland. The data are gathered in German, French and Italian, and they are anonymous. The Opportunity Barometer was launched by Prof. Dr. Tina Freyburg and the LARIX Foundation. From 31 May to 6 July this year, 4,530 residents in Switzerland aged 16+ were interviewed (German-speaking Switzerland: 3,761; French-speaking Switzerland: 591; Italian-speaking Switzerland: 178).

Confidence despite global challenges

Global challenges such as climate change and the corona pandemic are dominating the headlines. However, issues such as Switzerland’s relationship with the EU, the future of old-age provision, the funding of the health system and immigration also preoccupy the inhabitants of this country. Nonetheless, Swiss people are definitely looking ahead with optimism, as the 2021 Opportunity Barometer shows.

In comparison with the preceding year, the number of inhabitants who associate great opportunities with the current challenges has even slightly increased, namely by almost 2 per cent. This result confirms the initiators of the Opportunity Barometer in their optimistic attitude and was also the reason for the first Opportunity Day on 29 September 2021.

Five central findings of the study

The 2021 study focuses on diversity: the initiators of the Opportunity Barometer demonstrate how diversity can be used as a driving force for social cohesion and how the way in which we deal with it is crucial. These are the five most important findings:

Finding 1: The population can see more opportunities than in 2020

The greatest challenge perceived by the Swiss population is how the health system is funded, even before climate change and the future of old-age provision. In all three of these areas, however, the population can also discern great opportunities for change, most distinctly with regard to global warming. By now, about one in three Swiss nationals can see great opportunities here. Conversely, the proportion of those who cannot associate any opportunities with it decreased to a mere 7.4%. The population also associates great opportunities with digitalisation. Here, the prospect of opportunities is even more pronounced than the perception of the challenge.

Finding 2: Exploiting opportunities, remaining innovative

Switzerland is accustomed to occupying top places in various rankings of innovative power. No wonder: innovation is regarded as crucial for this country’s prosperity. Switzerland’s strong points are in attractive research institutions, an excellent educational system and strong international interlinkage. Added to this, there is a pronounced entrepreneurial spirit. In the opinion of just over a third of the Swiss population, the requirement of political stability is completely satisfied. This is a solid foundation for tackling challenges. What is criticised, however, is the lack of a constructive communication culture – a mere six per cent considers this requirement to be completely satisfied. Interviewees can also see deficits with regard to the compatibility of family and work, which only nine per cent see as given. In those two areas, in particular, positive changes would be important for Switzerland to be able to retain its outstanding position.

Finding 3: Confidence bridges the urban-rural divide

The divide between town and country has been talked about a great deal lately – not least because it is being politically exploited, too. The Opportunity Barometer shows that this divide hardly exists with regard to the perception of opportunities. All in all, confidence is running high, be it in towns or in the countryside: more than 70 per cent perceive great to very great opportunities in the challenges, with the optimism of the rural population only being one percentage point lower.

Finding 4: Switzerland – united in diversity

Although Switzerland is a small country, it possesses a great deal of diversity – in terms of languages, religions, social aspects and numerous other areas. Nonetheless, the population’s collective identity is pronounced, and a large part of it feels strongly committed to Switzerland. This is demonstrated by the fact that 81 per cent of Swiss nationals place their trust in the country’s political institutions. 72 per cent of them have trust in their compatriots. In addition, 56 per cent are actively engaged in politics or civil society for the benefit of the common good. The initiators of the Opportunity Barometer emphasise that this social cohesion constitutes the bonds that prompt individuals to become a community. Even more: if a society succeeds in making productive use of its members’ diversity, it will be more resistant and in a better position to cope with times of crisis.

Finding 5: The voting public prefers candidates who resemble them

Voters tend to prefer candidates who resemble them socio-demographically. According to the study, the political parties’ influence on election prospects must not be underestimated, either: it is crucial whom they select, since independently of the candidates’ specific political orientation, their prosects become most favourable if the interviewees are close to their political party.


Swiss people are optimistic: even in the crisis, they set their sights on opportunities. In comparison with 2020, the proportion of Swiss people who associate very great opportunities for positive changes with the current challenges has even increased by almost 2 per cent. “Swiss people’s opportunity-oriented mindset and their trust in the political institutions may be an ‘enabler” which provides leeway for new solutions and courses of action, while granting courageous, hands-on political answers the benefit of the doubt. I’d be pleased if the Opportunity Barometer could contribute towards clearing our minds so that we’ll be able to get the current and future challenges under control with a sharp focus and renewed vigour,” says project leader Tina Freyburg.