28 January 2016

Sweden Democrat voters are more xenophobic and intolerant than other voters, according to a study by four Linköping University researchers.

Foto: David Einar NygrenAfter the Swedish general elections in September 2014, there has been much debate regarding how the Sweden Democrats could end up as the third largest party. Some commentators argued that voters were expressing their disapproval with the established parties - a theory rejected by the four Linköping University researchers.

“There is a very strong correlation between negative attitudes toward minorities and the decision to vote for the Sweden Democrats,” says Peter Hedström, professor of analytical sociology and director of the Institute for Analytical Sociology (IAS) at Linköping University.

In the study, the researchers asked respondents how they feel about someone with a Muslim background being their next-door neighbour, caring for their parents or marrying into their family. The questions were asked both before and after the election. The results show that Sweden Democrat voters have a more negative view of Muslims and people with foreign names than other voters. Fifty per cent of Sweden Democrat voters did not want a Muslim as next-door neighbour, and 80 per cent are negative to someone with a Muslim background marrying into their family.

“There has been a view that as the Sweden Democrats have grown, their voters have become more like the rest of the electorate. But Sweden Democrat voters are clearly different from other voters,” says Professor Hedström.

With Sweden facing an extra election in March, Prof Hedström predicts the Sweden Democrats can further increase their vote. He does not believe that the other parties will edge closer to Sweden Democrat policy in order to win back lost voters, because this could repel loyal voters.

“People from the Sweden Democrats have been involved in a number of incidents linked to xenophobia. These have been explained away by the party as the mistakes of individuals, and that they are not representative of the party. But our study shows that this is exactly what they are. It’s important that voters know this.”

The study: Right-wing populism and social distance towards Muslims in Sweden – Results from a nation-wide vignette study. By Tim Müller, Peter Hedström, Sarah Valdez and Karl Wennberg, Linköping University.