More faith in the EU and the economy: Six changes in Swedish opinion

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More faith in the EU and the economy: Six changes in Swedish opinion
Swedish faith in the EU has strengthened. Photo: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT

Swedes are feeling more positive about the economy, showing greater support for the EU and improved faith in public institutions like schools and police. But they are also pessimistic about developments in Sweden in general, not particularly confident in politicians, and want to see new political alliances in government.


Each year Gothenburg University's SOM Institute carries out its national SOM Survey, questioning Swedes about their views on politics, society, the media, the economy and more. The results of the 2017 survey are now in. Here are some of the key points that emerged from the answers provided by over 30,000 Swedes on the state of their nation.

The Economy

Though not quite jumping for joy on the matter, Swedes are growing more positive about the Swedish economy. Asked how it has changed in the last 12 months, 29 percent said it has improved (up from 12 percent in 2016), while 14 percent said it had worsened (down from 35 percent).

Views were similar when Swedes were asked how their personal economic situation had changed in the last 12 months: 27 percent said it was better (up slightly on 2016) and 14 percent said worse (down slightly on 2016).

Asked a less specific question about whether they think developments in Sweden are generally going in the right or wrong direction however, 50 percent said wrong (down slightly from 51 percent in 2016) and 27 percent said right (up from 18 percent in 2016).


Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Faith in public institutions

Dwindling police numbers and shaky performances in international school rankings have painted a bleak picture of Sweden's public institutions in recent years, but the results of the new SOM survey suggest attitudes towards them are becoming more positive.

The percentage of people who said they have a great deal or quite a lot of faith in how the police do their work for example is now 58 percent, up from 52 percent in 2016 (though not quite as high as the last decade's peak of 62 percent in 2014).

Schools are also bouncing back in public opinion, with 48 percent showing a great deal or quite a lot of faith in them, the highest since the 1990s and up from 42 percent last year.

The positive trend continued for the courts, in which 54 percent said they had a great deal or quite a lot of faith (up from 48 percent last year and an all-time high), while even Sweden's stretched public healthcare system received a slight boost, with 65 percent showing a great deal or quite a lot of faith in it.

That's an improvement from 64 percent in 2016 but not quite the 68 percent of 2015 (and well bellow the high of 81 percent from the 1990s).

READ ALSO: Swedish schools under pressure to recruit 77,000 new teachers

Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT


Some particularly fascinating shifts can be seen in how Swedish views on politics are changing. Swedes remain generally satisfied with democracy in the country (76 percent said they are quite or very much satisfied with it, up from 71 percent in 2016 and 69 percent in 2015). The position they believe they can be placed in within that democracy is however changing.

It seems many Swedes are moving away from the traditional 'left' or 'right' political classification. Asked where they would place their political opinions on a left-right scale, 35 percent said right (down from 37 percent in 2016 and 40 in 2015), while 32 percent said left (up only slightly from 31 percent in 2016 and 2015). A third of those surveyed (33 percent) said neither, up from 31 percent in 2016 and 29 percent in 2015.

With that shift in mind, it is perhaps not surprising to see that appetite for new cross-party collaboration appears to be growing. Asked which parties they would like to see in government after this year's general election, a record 39 percent said they want a collaboration between parties from the left and right divide. Only 13 percent said they want a centre-right Alliance government, while even less, 10 percent, said they want a 'Red-Green' (Social Democrat, Green and Left) government. A mere six percent want a Social Democrat majority government.

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Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT


The changing political landscape also carries over to opinions on the media, where faith is splitting further depending on age. On the one hand, youngsters are less trusting, with 44 percent in the 16-29 age bracket showing high confidence in TV and Radio (down from 58 percent in 2000), and on the other, the elderly are strengthening in their faith, with 66 percent showing high confidence in TV and Radio (up from 61 percent in 2000).

Swedish faith in media is also growing more polarized depending on where a person's political views lie. Of those who define themselves as "clearly to the right", 40 percent said they have high confidence in TV and radio (down significantly from 53 percent in 2000), while of those who define themselves as "clearly to the left", 67 percent said they have high confidence in TV and radio (up from 58 percent in 2000).

A similar trend can be charted according to party sympathies: 67 percent of Left Party voters, 66 percent of Social Democrat voters and 63 percent of Centre Party voters showed high faith in radio and TV in 2017. That contrasts 51 percent of Moderate voters, 46 percent of Christian Democrat voters and 37 percent of Sweden Democrat voters.

Overall, public service broadcasters still have the greatest amount of faith from the public by a significant margin. SVT registered over 70 percent high confidence from the public (down from just below 80 in 2016), while Sveriges Radio charted just over 70 percent (down from around 75 percent in 2016). At the opposite end of the scale is Aftonbladet, in which only around 20 percent have high confidence.

READ ALSO: Sweden boasts second place in press freedom ranking

Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Opinions on Europe

While Britian prepares to leave the European Union, Swedish opinions on the EU are moving in the opposite direction, with 53 percent saying they're generally for Swedish membership in the union (up from 49 percent in 2016 and matching the all-time high of 2010). At the same time the proportion of people generally against EU membership dropped to 18 percent, down from 23 percent in 2016 and the lowest ever registered in the surveys.

When specifically asked about leaving the EU, 17 percent said it would be a good idea (down from 22 percent in 2016), and 57 percent said it's a bad idea (up from 56 percent in 2016).


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Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

Working life

The survey also shows most Swedes would like to work less, with 52 percent saying a six-hour working day is a very good or quite good idea, up from 50 percent in 2015. Women in particular are growing more keen on the idea: 61 percent said it is a very good or quite good idea, up from 57 percent in 2015. Men are more skeptical, with the 41 percent who like the idea stable over the last three years.

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Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT


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