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What the Swedish public really thinks about immigration

Sweden takes more immigrants from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and similar countries in a per capita basis than any other nation. Each year about 100.000 immigrants move to Sweden, mostly from the third world, with most not formally qualifying for refugees status. They get to stay because they are relatives of other immigrants, and because Sweden often gives permanent residency to people on a “humanitarian” basis, such as your child being stressed from deportation.

I got to stay in Sweden because of humanitarian reasons, not because we had any legitimate case that our lives were threatened in Iran (my mother was ill). But what benefits me privately is not necessarily what is good policy for society.

Non-western immigrants in Sweden do not integrate well. Their employment rate is about 50%, compared to 80% for native Swedes. They are extremely over-represented in crime and other social problems.

So why does Sweden continue this policy? Because of support amongst Sweden’s’ liberal voters?

The answer is no. The reason Sweden does this is firm support for immigration among the elite, and the fact that Swedish voters really trust their elite (the media, academics, to a lesser extent politicians).

Every year Swedish population views on a range of issues, including immigration, are measured.

The question asked is: “Is is a good proposal to take in fewer refugees” or “a bad proposal to take in fewer refugees”.

If you go to the early part of the 1990, the support was strong for taking fewer immigrants. But massive mobilization of elite opinion, violent crimes committed by racists, and the collapse of the anti-immigration party made the country more pro-immigration 1990-2000. I should add that the early 1990s in Sweden were very bad times economic , because the country had a recession deeper and longer than the one the U.S had recently.

Note though 2 other effects: Immigrants, especially non-western immigrants, are themselves a larger part of the sample now than 1990 (14% are foreign born, with another large chunk second generation. A little more than 10% of the population is first or second generation immigrant from a non-western country).

Also the subject became taboo in Sweden, with everyone who is against immigration currently considered a racist. Thus people are averse to stating or having such opinion. Swedes are exceptionally conformist.


Nevertheless, notice that the declining trend stopped in 2000, and is followed by an increase of opposition to immigration, due to manifestation of problems such as crime and welfare dependency.

If we take only those who have an opinion, the division is 62%-38% for taking fewer immigrants (and on a taboo issue such as this, people who state no opinion are not exactly likely to be especially pro-immigration).

The report also asks people what worried them about the future. In the 1993 survey 38% said “increased number of refugees” was one of the things that worried them. In 2000, only 17% said “increased number of refugees”. In 2008 the number had increased again to 26%.

Yet, of the 7 parties in parliament, 0% support cutting immigration. 2 out of 7, the green and the former communist, want completely free immigration from all the world, combined with maintaining the generous welfare state. Good luck with that one…

The result of this political cartel has been the rise of a small, anti-immigration party, with a racist history. The elite has responded with a united front against them.

Sweden has the most pro-immigration public in Europe, but even Swedish opinion is on balance anti-immigration. Only through firm elite-support combined with the Swedish public’s blue eyed(sic) trust in their institutions and the elite that runs them has the policy continued. Over 99% of newspapers (weighted by readership) and 100% of television and radio supports current or even more generous immigration policy.

I want to show my non-Swedish readers how the elite manipulates public opinion for their pro-immigration agenda.

The research institute in charge of this data (SOM) released it a couple of day ago as news, as they do every year. Last year, the share who oppose immigration declined. Thus their new-release was titled “increasing support for immigration”.

This year however, the share who oppose immigration increased slightly from 45 to 46%, perhaps because of the debate surrounding the growing anti-immigration party.

But the headline did not change, it was presented in Sweden’s most important daily newspaper as “Swedes are becoming increasingly positive towards immigrants” (!).

How in gods name did they achieve to give this impression, with the figures being what they were?

Because they are not comparing with 2008, or 2000. They decided to compare 2009 with 1993, as if that was news!!!

The trend that stopped and perhaps was reversed 9 years ago is “news”, when it suits their agenda, and when the last year trend does not. They also choose to focus on a different question (something about attitudes toward immigrants, rather than immigration), instead of the standard, policy relevant question they have been asking every year for decades.

All the newspapers and television has reported this as a major news story. Swedes are becoming more pro-immigrant (even though the data suggest otherwise). Since Swedes are conformist, it is very important to bully them into not having dissenting opinion.

Intellectually, I believe demography and culture are underestimated and policy overestimated.

If you live with Scandinavians you soon realize they are a completely unique people in terms of producing positive social externalities (their niceness, cooperativeness, trustworthiness and their naive trust in other people makes them have with the best individual norms and some of the worst collective norms in the developed world).

I am thus bothered by the fact that the American left attribute the high quality of life that results with the extraordinarily good norms, evolved informal institutions and well functioning culture of Scandinavians to the welfare state (which is just a outcome variable among many).

Immigrants who lack Swedish culture but live under the same welfare state have extremely bad social outcomes.

So from an merely scientific point of view the best thing would be if the Swedish left and libertarians gets its wishes, and Sweden completely opens the borders, while maintaining the welfare state.

The subsequent collapse of this well-functioning society would be a good lesson to other countries not to take demographic factors for granted.

And who knows, maybe I am wrong, and filling Sweden with semi-skilled Muslim immigrants will produce some sort of hybrid, well functioning state.

PS. I will also, based on this data, make the prediction that the racist anti-immigration party will get into Parliament this election (they need 4%, they are currently polling 3%). I predict 5-6% of the vote.

However I will definitely not vote for them, due to their racist past.

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