Switzerland: Divided opinion of the population about 5G network expansion

In Switzerland, the population has an almost exactly divided opinion about the expansion of the fifth generation of mobile communications (5G). This was the result of a representative online survey by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) as part of the Swiss environmental panel. Other answers, for example, with assessments of “perceived health impairments” due to mobile radio technology are in some cases remarkable.


Marko Aliaksandr /


This focus shows what the new cellular standard can do, for whom it makes sense and why scientists are warning about 5G rays.

In total, almost all of the 7300 or so survey participants have heard of the term “5G”, they say in the abstract of the study. However, over half of the respondents stated that they had not dealt with the topic at all or hardly at all. When it comes to many questions, however, the opinion of the participating population is quite divided, and often in similar proportions.

According to the study, for example, around a third of the respondents each answered that they are “against”, “partly / partly” or “for” regarding the expansion of 5G in Switzerland. In detail, around ten percent were “strongly against” an expansion of the 5G network (10.9 percent), while a little more than ten percent of those surveyed are “strongly in favor” (12.7 percent). The remaining votes were “rather for” (27.1 percent), “partly / partly” (25.6 percent) and “somewhat against” (23.6 percent).

In addition, the participants were asked to classify the possible disadvantages of 5G mobile radio for “health”, “data security” and so-called “electrosensitivity” in order of importance. Possible health effects were ranked first of the disadvantages with 58.4 percent. This is followed by data security with 29.8 percent and electrical sensitivity with 11.8 percent.

Although the current introduction of 5G is taking place in frequency ranges that are already used for mobile communications and WLAN, the majority of respondents (57 percent) are of the opinion that their health is “better”, “much more” and “much more “is burdened by the radiation from 5G systems compared to that from 3G / 4G antennas.

Slightly less than 30 percent of the survey participants said that they felt “equally” burdened. 11.7 percent of those surveyed do not feel that they are burdened by cell phone antennas at all. Only very few respondents stated, as the authors of the study report write, that their health is less stressed by 5G systems than by older cellular antenna technology.

When asked how they think science evaluates the health risks of cell phone radiation, respondents were able to choose between seven options, ranging from “very much agree that they exist” to “disagree on whether they exist or not” to too “very much agreed that none exist” was enough. According to the study report, a large number of respondents assume that science is divided about health risks.

The participants in the study were also able to indicate whether they experience impairments in their health or well-being that they attribute to electromagnetic fields. 10.6 percent of those questioned answered in the affirmative as to whether they would describe themselves as electrosensitive. 30.9 percent are not sure and 58.4 percent do not describe themselves as electro-sensitive.

Similarly, the majority (59.5 percent) of the study participants felt little (34.1 percent) or no (25.4 percent) exposure to electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones, tablets and computers. 27.7 percent feel that they are “moderately burdened”. “Compared to surveys in the last two years, we see a slight increase in respondents who feel moderately to very heavily stressed,” says the study report.

There are also differences between the sexes, albeit not too great. According to the report, it is becoming apparent that male respondents have tended to be more concerned with the topic of 5G than survey participants. Men, especially young ones, see significantly more advantages for themselves in expanding the 5G network than women. Men are also more likely to want the 5G network to be expanded. By contrast, women are more likely than men to be of the opinion that the federal government and cantons do not adequately protect the population from radiation.

Overall, almost two thirds of all respondents are of the opinion that the population is not adequately protected from radiation from cell phone antennas. A good third think the protection is just right, and hardly anyone is of the opinion that the population is being protected too much. “These results suggest that precautionary measures to protect against radiation from cell phone antennas are in the interests of the population,” explains Thomas Bernauer, ETH professor of political science (international relations).

But what do the respondents therefore expect from politics? “The majority is in favor of maintaining the existing limit values ​​for cell phone antennas, even if this is associated with a rather slow expansion of 5G for the whole of Switzerland,” Thomas Bernauer is quoted in a press release from the ETHZ. If the respondents had to choose between different ways of 5G expansion, according to the study, they tend to prefer many locations with low radiation per antenna, as opposed to a few locations with high radiation. “In addition, they would rather opt for packages of measures that research health risks before the expansion,” says Franziska Quoss, project coordinator in Bernauer’s group.

The results now published come from a survey from summer 2020, which ETH Zurich has been carrying out twice a year in cooperation with the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) since 2018. they were within the framework of the Swiss environmental panel released. This is a panel survey, ie the same people are interviewed repeatedly.


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