ZURICH A slim majority of Swiss voters are against the purchase of 22 Gripen fighter jets from Swedish defence firm Saab, a poll showed on Friday, though the number who oppose the deal has fallen.
A referendum on the purchase will be held in May. The results will determine whether Switzerland will spend $3.4 billion to replace Switzerland's aging fleet of Northrop F-5 Tiger fighters with the Gripen jets.
Around 52 percent of voters would reject the proposal, according to the survey by opinion research institute gfs.bern. Forty-two percent were in favour and 6 percent were undecided or gave no answer. The poll surveyed 1,209 people between March 29 and April 4.
The latest poll indicates pro-campaigners may be succeeding in swaying public opinion, setting the proposal up for a tight vote on May 18. An earlier survey carried out by institute Leger for the newspaper SonntagsBlick in mid-March found 62 percent were against and just 32 percent in favour.
The Gripens are unpopular with some in Switzerland, which has not fought an international war for 200 years, because the deal will require cost cuts in other areas, such as education.
Switzerland's upper and lower houses voted in favour of the purchase of the jets in September, but Swiss interest groups can secure referendums on new laws by collecting enough signatures.
The vote on the jet purchase is scheduled for the same day as a popular vote on whether to adopt the world's highest minimum wage of 22 Swiss francs ($25.25) an hour, or 4,000 francs a month.
Around 52 percent of people surveyed said they were against introducing a minimum wage, which the government has said would hurt competitiveness and lead to job cuts. Some 40 percent were in favour.
Swiss voters generally have a history of rejecting proposals they feel could hurt the economy. They have previously rejected increases in holiday allowances and cuts in the work week.
However, in February they unexpectedly backed a proposal to cap immigration from the European Union, despite warnings from the business and political elite that it could be detrimental to the economy.
(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Larry King)