The percentage in favour, however, was greater than in a survey conducted by Demoscope at the end of December 2011 for the newspaper Zentralschweiz am Sonntag. At that time, 26 per cent supported purchase, 64 per cent were against, and ten per cent were undecided.
The new survey also found that only 25.6 per cent of voters thought Switzerland should buy Gripen aircraft from Sweden. Predictably, members of the centre-left Social Democratic Party were most strongly against, at 81.8 per cent.
But the Swedish planes, which had been recommended by Defence Minister Ueli Maurer, were controversial even among members of his own party — the rightwing Swiss People’s Party — with 49 per cent against their purchase and only 36.7 per cent in favour.
The cabinet had decided at the end of 2011 to buy 22 Gripen fighter jets, manufactured by Sweden’s Saab group, to replace the Air Force’s fleet of US-made F5 Tigers. Soon afterward, however, there were allegations that unfavourable evaluation reports for the jets had been ignored.
In September 2011, parliament decided on a SFr5 billion ($5.3 billion) budget for the army which included the purchase of new fighter jets. The inclusion of funds for fighter aircraft was highly controversial in light of the fact that the government had abandoned plans to buy planes in the previous year.
The Isopublic survey, conducted for the newspaper SonntagsZeitung, was seen as sending a clear signal that voters do not want fighter planes.
The poll found 27.8 per cent of survey participants categorically against buying more aircraft, 29.3 per cent tending to be against purchase, 23.8 per cent tending to be in favour, 18.3 per cent totally in favour, and one per cent undecided.
Isopublic surveyed 1,000 eligible voters in German-speaking and French-language western Switzerland between August 31 and September 2. However, neither the minority Italian nor the Romansh-speaking regions were polled.
swissinfo.ch and agencies