Swiss expat voters clearly in favour of road tunnel

The planned new 17km road tunnel in central Switzerland had the support of registered Swiss expat voters Keystone

Registered Swiss voters living abroad were generally well aware of the issues at stake in last Sunday’s nationwide ballot, says political scientist Thomas Milic. He has analysed the available results for

This content was published on March 1, 2016 minutes

Among the surprise findings was that turnout among Swiss abroad voters was clearly above average and that expats overwhelmingly approved the construction of a second road tunnel through the Gotthard.

However, rejection of the hardline deportation initiative was weaker among expats compared with overall national results.

The survey of the vote day is not complete and can therefore not be fully accurate, acknowledges Milic, who works for the Zurich-based Sotomo institute and the Centre for Democracy StudiesExternal link in Aarau.

But he says certain generalised patterns and findings can be established even though for the time being, there are separate expat results from only 12 out of the country’s 26 cantons.

“The biggest surprise for me was the high turnout among the Swiss living abroad,” says Milic. Compared with turnout at last October’s parliamentary elections, participation was 9% up and averaged around 35%.

Overall turnout on Sunday was 63%.

“It goes to show that expatriates were very interested in the votes and that they were well informed about what’s going on in their home country,” says Milic.

They also seem to be aware of the emotional and intense campaigns, which also affected their perceptions, he adds.


The massive support by expat voters for the second transalpine road tunnel is “stunning” for Milic. Available results from the 12 cantons show that approval was higher among the Swiss abroad than among domestic Swiss voters.

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Milic says the result is even more surprising considering that the Swiss expat electorate is generally considered to be more left-leaning and liberal than average resident Swiss citizens.

He believes that expat voters, mostly living in neighbouring countries including Italy and Germany, might have come out in favour of the new tunnel because they use the main north-south road link regularly.

It could be because they are potential beneficiaries of an allegedly safer road link, according to Milic.

Foreign criminals

Milic was also surprised to find that expat voters were generally slightly more in favour of the automatic deportation of foreign criminals convicted of certain crimes.

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The findings from 12 cantons which record expat votes separately again seem to contradict the general perception of registered Swiss abroad voters being left-leaning.

Milic says it is very difficult to explain Sunday’s result. It could be due to a general gap between rural and more urban voters.

The hardline initiative failed to win a majority among expat voters in every canton. But it was relatively popular in rural cantons including Appenzell Inner Rhodes, Valais, Fribourg, and Uri.

A similar pattern could be found for the vote on tax breaks for married couples.

As for the vote on the leftwing initiative on a proposed ban on speculation with foodstuffs, Swiss expat voters appear to have conformed with the traditional perception of them. Approval of the initiative was higher in all but three of the 12 cantons.

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