Agroscope, ETH Zurich

Language Regions Assess Agricultural Policy Goals Differently

An online survey shows that the Swiss population views all agricultural policy goals as important. Although animal welfare and farmers’ incomes are the top priorities everywhere, the language regions show differences in their assessment of the goals.

The agricultural policy goals cover a wide range of topics, such as the secure supply of food for the population, adequate payment for agricultural services, various environmental goals and ensuring animal welfare. By international standards, Switzerland uses large financial resources for this. In addition, agriculture and food policy are frequently the focus of social and political debate and voting in popular initiatives on this topic is a regular occurrence.

An online survey in three language regions

In autumn 2022 an online survey was carried out with 1,542 participants in three language regions. 505 people participated in German-speaking Switzerland, 517 in French-speaking Switzerland and 520 in Italian-speaking Switzerland. The survey asked two questions:

  1. Please indicate for the following aspects how important you think they should be for agriculture in Switzerland.
  2. Please indicate for the following aspects how important they should be in the distribution of the agricultural budget.

Both questions were answered on a Likert Scale from 1 = not at all important to 7 = very important. The evaluation of both questions and the use of different methods gave very similar results and conclusions.

Animal welfare and farmers’ income are more important than low consumer prices

All the agricultural policy goals named in the survey were rated as important (average value > 5 on a scale of 1–7). Figure 1 shows the goals arranged according to importance. Our analysis shows that improving animal welfare is the most important goal for Swiss citizens. Ensuring an adequate income for farmers is the second most important goal. Farmers can count on the support of Swiss citizens in this respect. The two least important goals are low food prices and increasing domestic food production.

The importance, however, varies greatly from person to person. Personal attitudes are a key factor in explaining the preferences for agriculture policy goals, while socio-demographic factors have almost no influence on these preferences.

Differences exist between the language regions

In German-speaking Switzerland, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, lowering food prices and ensuring an adequate income for farmers are considered significantly less important than in French-speaking and Italian-speaking Switzerland. However, increasing domestic production is rated as significantly more important in German-speaking Switzerland than in the two other language regions. For respondents in French-speaking Switzerland it is more important to ensure an adequate income for farmers and to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions than in the two other language regions.

Fig. 1. Importance of agricultural policy goals in three Swiss language regions (Rank 1= most important goal) (N Total = 1,542; N German-speaking-Switzerland = 505; N French-speaking Switzerland = 517; N Italian-speaking Switzerland = 520).


  • All agricultural policy goals are considered important by Swiss citizens. This shows that the multifunctional role of agriculture is understood and widely accepted.
  • Swiss citizens place the topic of animal welfare at the top of the agricultural policy agenda.
  • The perceived importance of agricultural policy goals differs significantly in the different language regions, something that needs to be taken into account in the political debate.
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