One in five voters (20 percent) believe that the integration of immigrants is the biggest social issue in Sweden, a survey by pollsters Ipsos commissioned by Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter suggests.
The figure is seven percentage points higher than in August 2014, when just 13 percent said that integration was their key concern.
There has been a growing debate about integration and immigration since Sweden’s last general election in September 2014, when the nationalist Sweden Democrats (SD) became the third largest party in parliament. The group is the only political party in openly in favour of cutting immigration to Sweden.
Since the SD’s success at the polls, discussions about integration have become more commonplace in the Swedish media and political sphere, with signs that other parties starting to review their own policies.
Sweden currently takes in more asylum seekers per capita than any other European country, with 81,000 arriving in 2014 and has a global reputation for peace and tolerance.
“It is to do with the issue getting so much space in the public debate in recent times,” David Ahlin, Survey Manager at Ipsos to the Daily News said in response to the poll.
“At the same time, it is a continuation of an increase that we saw during the entire election year. We have seen this trend in other European countries but it is a completely new situation in Sweden,” he added.
A number of high profile attacks on mosques and synagogues as well as the recent terror shootings in Paris have kept Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in the headlines in recent months. The Ipsos pollsters found that two percent of the population spontaneously cited concerns about xenophobia as their biggest worry.
“We received many spontaneous responses that people are concerned about xenophobia and racism. This probably reflects the fact that there has been much attention on anti-Semitism, mosque fires and large demonstrations against racism,” says Ahlin.
The survey found that education was the most important issue for voters. Sweden has tumbled in international school rankings in recent years and there has also been much debate about free schools, which are run as businesses.
More than a thousand voters were questioned for the survey.