Risk of increased negative attitudes towards immigrants
23 November 2012
The proportion of Swedes that have extremely negative attitudes towards immigrants has for several years been stable, but may grow in the event of a deepened economic crisis, unemployment or a perceived threat from foreign cultural or religious expressions. These conclusions are drawn in this year’s ‘Diversity Barometer’ from the Department of Sociology at Uppsala University.
The ‘Diversity Barometer’ is a yearly survey of Swede’s attitudes towards ethnic diversity. The study is based on replies from 1,000 people, a random selection of the Swedish population.
The study shows that in Sweden there is a very stable group with extremely negative attitudes towards diversity. The group constitutes 5.6 per cent of the population (6.3 per cent of you only include people born in Sweden). Depending on what happens in Swedish society, with regards to the economic crisis and other factors, this group could increase to 11.4 per cent, the number of people who admit to having had bad experiences of immigrants.
Extreme events, for example the combination of high unemployment and a perceived growing threat from foreign religious or cultural expressions, can lead to the extreme group growing further. For instance, 20.3 per cent admit having very strong negative feelings about Islamic symbols. In serious crises, where Swedish society feels threatened in its foundational values and welfare systems, scientists estimate that the group with extremely negative attitudes can grow even more among those who say they never interact with immigrants. In 2012 that number was 32.8 per cent.
Women have positive experiences of immigrants to a larger extent than men – as do people living in cities, people with higher education and those who are middle-aged. Men, older people, those with no higher education and people in rural areas tend to admit less positive experiences. Another tendency can be found among young people, who previously showed very positive attitudes, but now have become slightly less positive.
‘You could say that the study shows that many have a positive attitude to diversity, but still feel a cultural distance to immigrants and certain nationalities. Having a positive attitude is not necessarily the same thing as experiencing a cultural proximity, explains Orlando Mella, one of the study’s two co-authors.