As the dust begins to clear, the causes and effects of the Swedish election begin to show. The most obvious result was the victory for the Sweden Democrats – opinion polls and even exit polls had put them on around 10% of the vote which in itself would have been a major success, but in the end the party managed to win 12.9%. This is actually a better performance than that of the Danish People’s Party in the 2011 Danish general election, even if the DPP had polled 13.9% in the 2007 election.1
This points to an apparent paradox: One the one hand longitudinal studies show that the public opinion in Sweden has steadily turned more positive towards refugees and immigrants since the early 1990s just as public confidence in politicians has increased since hitting a low after 1990-1994 the economic and banking crisis. On the other hand the SD vote has every hallmark of political distrust and xenophobia.
The best explanation in my opinion is that SD under Jimmie Åkesson’s leadership has been able to mobilise that part of the electorate which has low trust in politicians and the political system and which holds negative views of immigrants and refugees. In a way, the change in support for SD from 2006 to 2014 was less on the mass and more on the elite level. The SvT election study also suggests that SD hasn’t exhausted its potential yet with some 17% of voters stating that the party has the best immigration policy.
To be continued
- The DPP has of course since then managed to improve its level of support beyond the wildest imagination of pundits and pollsters [↩]