Swedes Cool Towards Ethnic Diversity

David Landes, The Local (Stockholm), October 24, 2008

According to the annual diversity barometer carried out by researchers at Uppsala University, the percentage of the Swedish population with extremely negative attitudes toward ethnic diversity has increased by 50 percent since 2005.

“The extremely negative attitudes are increasing, and we believe it’s in line with what’s happening in Europe. It’s not only older, but also younger who are negative,” said Orlando Mella, a sociology professor from Uppsala University, to the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

However, Mella added that in comparison to the rest of Europe, Sweden is generally quite positive toward diversity.

Overall, 5.7 percent of the population in Sweden indicated they have extremely negative attitudes toward diversity, up from 3.8 percent in 2005.

Among men, the instance of negative attitudes has increased from 5.3 to 7.5 percent since 2005.

Unexpectedly, however, the prevalence of negative attitudes toward ethnic diversity among Swedish women has nearly doubled from 2.3 percent to 4.1 percent.

“It’s surprising for us that there are more women in the group [expressing negative attitudes]; that’s not something we expected. Swedish women tend to be quite positive toward diversity,” said Mella.

Despite the growth of unfavourable views towards diversity in Sweden, Mella believes the country is better equipped to integrate immigrant groups than other European countries and that public perceptions of social exclusion among immigrants in Sweden is exaggerated.

“The large number of immigrants are on the way to or currently are being integrated,” she said.

Nevertheless, Mella said that continued growth in the number of Swedes expressing hostility toward ethnic diversity has the potential to affect Swedes’ attitudes more widely, noting that rising unemployment presents a challenge for politicians.

“But we should remember that there aren’t deep ethnic conflicts in Sweden like there are in France or Great Britain,” she said.

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