A major survey carried out by US-based Pew Research Centre suggests that Sweden, by an overwhelming margin, is the European nation most convinced that a British departure would seriously hurt the union.
Pollsters asked nine key players – Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, Hungary, Spain, Poland, Greece, France and Italy – how they thought a British yes to Brexit in its June 23rd referendum would affect the EU.
A total of 89 percent of Swedes quizzed said it would be a “bad thing” if the UK votes to leave, compared to 75 percent of people in the Netherlands and 74 percent in Germany. Conversely, 32 percent of the French and 23 percent of Italians said they thought it would be a “good thing”.
The result is more striking than a similar poll carried out on behalf of the Dagens Nyheter newspaper last month, which suggested that three quarters of Swedes believed a Brexit vote would negatively affect the EU.
“Culturally, the Brits have their biggest fans in the Nordic countries. You could say that Scandinavians are so in love with British culture that we sometimes find it difficult to see the flaws that do of course exist,” Per Tryding, deputy CEP of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Southern Sweden, wrote in an opinion piece for The Local earlier this year.
Public opinion on the EU however is split in Sweden, with 54 percent telling the Pew poll they had a “favourable” view of the institution, compared to 44 percent declaring an “unfavourable” view.
The survey suggested further that Swedes aged 35-49 are the most likely to back the EU (six out of ten in the age bracked said they did), with 56 percent of people aged 18-34 and 51 percent of over-50s telling pollsters they were in favour of the union.
“If the British leave, Euroscepticism in Sweden will grow. I’m worried we’ll end up in a Swexit debate,” political commentator and Moderate Party politician Ulrica Schenström told The Local in April.
The survey also found that the EU enjoys more support in Sweden by people who place themselves on the right of the ideological spectrum, similar to Spain, but unlike the UK, Italy and the Netherlands.
However, despite largely being in favour of the EU, Swedes displayed strong disapproval with how the union has handled the most pressing issue in recent times: last year's refugee crisis, which is still being felt across the continent. Some 88 percent of Swedes said they disapproved of the way the crisis is being dealt with.
Sweden took in 163,000 asylum seekers last year, and Swedes from both sides of the political spectrum have previously criticized the way the EU has handled the record influx, with some arguing other nations should have taken in more refugees, and others saying the union should have tightened its outer borders.