Attitudes towards Black people

Collected by means of an in-depth module from the survey on diversity and coexistence in Switzerland (VeS), the figures presented below provide information on the attitudes of Switzerland's population towards Black people. The module gathers opinions, perceptions and stereotypes held about this group of people. Indirectly, the figures highlight the potential obstacles that Black people may encounter in Switzerland.

Depending on the indicators, attitudes towards the group change, reflecting different methodological choices and approaches.

Stereotypes: between agreement and rejection

Focusing on reactions to stereotypes, this indicator enables an understanding of how Black people are perceived by the population. The graph below shows two possible types of reaction upon being presented with a series of characteristics relating to representations – mainly dating back to the colonial era – of this group of people: either consistent agreement with or consistent rejection of the attributes presented.

The percentage of the population that thinks all of the characteristics, both positive and negative, attributed to Black people apply varies according to the nature of the stereotype. 6% of the population agree consistently with the negative characteristics and 9% with the positive ones.

Mirroring the results on agreement, negative characteristics tend to be rejected more (7%) than positive characteristics (5%). 4% of the population reject all of the characteristics presented. This share of the population refuses to generalise about this group of people or to categorise them by means of stereotypes.

Attitudes towards colonialism and slavery

Despite the fact that Switzerland did not have colonies, it may nevertheless have inherited some of the representations and
constructions related to colonialism. The figures below present the reaction to intentionally provocative statements and measure the population's attitudes towards Switzerland's role in colonialism and slavery.

Almost 70% of Switzerland's population reject the idea that Black people complain too often about the suffering they endured under colonialism. 51% of the population disagree with the statement that there is less racism towards Black people in Switzerland due to the fact that the country did not have colonies. A third of the population would be in favour of Black people receiving reparation for having been subjected to slavery. Conversely, 61% are against awarding financial compensation. The remaining 8% gave no opinion on possible reparation.

Attitudes towards racism

The figures below present the reaction to intentionally provocative statements and measure the population's attitudes towards racism against Black people.

Several statements relating to discrimination and racism were drawn up to measure the attitudes of the population living in Switzerland, towards the group being studied. Two tendencies emerge: on the one hand, the confirmation of discrimination towards Black people and, on the other, the tendency to soften the existence of racism towards Black people in Switzerland. Altogether, 76% of the population agree that Black people have more difficulty than white people finding housing in this country. 72% agree that discrimination exists in the labour market and that this has negative consequences on the working climate. Despite this, 43% of the population oppose saying that racism towards black people is a secondary problem in Switzerland and 45% are against the statement that Black people complain too often about being discriminated against. Conversely, the majority (51%) consider that racism towards Black people is a minor problem and 45% feel that the latter's complaints are too frequent.

Everyday life situations and racist behaviour

By means of sketches from daily life or specific situations, the figures below attempt to show whether people perceive certain expressions or behaviours to be racist, and to measure the extent to which the definitions of racism are shared by the population.

Hover the mouse pointer over the dots in the interactive diagram below to display the labels for the different situations.

Generally speaking, the everyday situations reflecting so-called "traditional" forms of racism are identified more often by the population than so-called "new" forms (see the definitions of forms of racism under the tab 'definitions' at the bottom of the page). An insult on the bus, a refusal to receive care from a Black nurse, a Black person being ignored by a salesperson, a remark on the intelligence of a Black colleague are considered by more than 70% of the population as racist behaviour. Only the police ID check for no apparent reason of a Black man stands out from the other situations and is less likely to be perceived as racist (66%). If all of the old racism situations analysed are grouped together then 45% of the population perceive them consistently as such.

Although less identified overall than the traditional forms of racism, the new forms of racism towards Black people are nevertheless recognised by the majority of the population. The refusal to give a managerial position to a Black person by claiming that they will not be accepted by the team and giving advice to a student not to continue their studies despite good marks, are considered by 68% of the population as racist behaviour. 51% of the population is of the opinion that a Black soldier, in Swiss army uniform, who has to explain why he is doing military service, is also a racist situation. The situation of a nurse, born and trained in Switzerland, who is often asked about her origins, is seen as racist by 34% of the population; among all of the situations suggested, this is the least likely to be categorised as racist. 17% of the population perceives racist behaviour in the whole set of "new" situations analysed.

The interactive graph below provides detailed information on the awareness of racism towards Black people by means of everyday situations: it enables us to see how the results of the indicator on the awareness of racism towards Black people varies depending on the sub-groups of the population. It shows, for example, that the perception of racist behaviour, regardless of its form, varies depending on the age and sex of respondents.

Further information




Persons perceived as or considering themselves to be black, in principle mainly people of African descent. According to the UN, people of African descent can be defined as comprising African victims of the slave trade, Africans and their descendants who after the independence of their country emigrated to or left for work in Europe, Canada or the Middle East.


Racism is an ideology that classifies people into groups on the basis of real or imagined differences (ethnicity, nationality, religion, etc.) considered immutable. The proponents of racism claim that people belong to a group by attributing to them a common pseudo-biological or cultural origin. A racist attitude need not (necessarily) be based on an explicit ideology, it can also be based on diffuse biological assumptions.

Racism towards Black people refers directly to a visible characteristic, namely skin colour. In this form of racism, negative attitudes or personality traits are attributed to a person based on their physical appearance. Racism towards Black people is decisively supported by the images and values that were shaped by slavery and colonialism. At the interindividual level, it is understood as a situation, act or event by which individuals who are perceived or consider themselves black feel, because of their skin colour or other phenotypic traits, denigrated, ridiculed, excluded or otherwise discriminated against (in public or in private).

Old forms of racism (or “traditional racism”)

Pseudo-scientific racism based on the biological and genetic principles of different human races.

New forms of racism

Cultural racism, without race, or neo-racism: valorisation of cultural or ethnic differences, without biological reference, tending to make these differences appear natural and inherent.

Insidious, subtle racism: more indirect forms of racism which sometimes go as far as presenting cultural differences in a (pseudo) positive form.

Everyday racism: repeated questions or gestures that can be insidiously racist but sometimes motivated by ignorance, stupidity or simple curiosity.

Institutional, contextual racism: the result - intentional or otherwise - of public policy or certain institutions, which are not able to guarantee equal opportunities and which may even favour the stigmatisation or exclusion of certain groups.


Source: Survey "Diversity": Discrimination of Black people in Switzerland

Ad-hoc module: VeS
Year: 2017

Statistical universe: Permanent resident population aged 15 to 88
Non-weighted numbers: n (total) = 2899


Federal Statistical Office Section Demography and Migration
Espace de l'Europe 10
CH-2010 Neuchâtel



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