Sweden warms to refugees

The general attitude towards Sweden's acceptance of refugees has become less negative, according to annual research published on Saturday. But there are clear regional differences in attitude, with Swedes in the north considerably softer in their views than their compatriots in the south.

Almost half of all Swedes, 48 percent, believes that it would be better for Sweden to accept fewer refugees – the lowest in five years.

But in Skåne and Blekinge, 59 percent say that the intake of refugees ought to be reduced. In Norrland on 38 percent feel the same.

The figures came from this year’s nationwide survey from the Society, Opinion and Media (SOM) Institute at Gothenburg University.

According to Marie Demker, professor of political science at the university, the north-south divide holds true when women, who are traditionally more keen on accepting refugees, are compared.

Writing on Svenska Dagbladet’s opinion page, she noted that women from Norrland are clearly less opposed to accepting refugees than women from Skåne in the south of the country.

The regional differences remain even when factors such as the level of schooling and age are taken into account, leading Marie Demker to conclude that the attitude towards refugees is primarily linked to how public opinion is formed locally, through political action, for example.

This in turn is related to the fact that historically southern Sweden is more politically segmented than in Norrland, where the typical left-right division is well-defined.

That means that there are more small parties addressing single issues in Skåne – such as those with the refugee issue high on their agenda.

“By looking at other countries we know that it’s easier to flag up issues like asylum policies in those which are more politically segmented,” said Demker.

She did not explain, however, why more people in Skåne choose to support groups which are less keen on accepting asylum seekers.

“Then you come to psychological explanations. But there is no doubt that the attitude towards refugees is harder in Skåne than in Norrland,” she said.