Values and voters – on giving your vote to the Sweden Democrats

On the 4th of December, an article was published on DN Debatt on xenophobia among the Sweden Democrats voters. The article refers to a study that was initiated when the writers Peter Hedström and Tim Müller were still working at the Institute for Futures Studies.

In the article the writers claim that xenophobia is was characterizes voters for the Sweden Democrats, a conclusion that is derived from the study "Right-wing populism and social distance towards Muslims in Sweden - Results from a nation-wide vignette study" (pdf) by Tim Müller, Peter Hedström, Sarah Valdez and Karl Wennberg at the Institute of Analytical Sociology at Linköping University.

The study was conducted as a reaction towards the increasing influence of right-wing populist parties in Sweden as well as in the rest of Europe. The development raises questions about the attitudes that the general population holds towards minorities with a foreign background and particularly those with a Muslim background since Muslim immigrants is often portrayed as most culturally distant in most European countries. The purpose of the study was to measure the social distance to the Muslim minority among Swedes in general and among the Sweden Democrats' voters in particular.

With the help of market research company Novus, two measurements were made, one in April before the elections in 2014 and one in October after the elections. In the study, the respondents are asked to imagine people with different gender, name, religion, level of education and personal commitment, and then to answer questions on how they would find it if these individuals would become a next door neighbour, would care for their parents as a nurse or would marry into their family .

The study shows that voters who vote for the Sweden Democrats (2010 and 2014) are not more dissatisfied with the political establishment than other voters, in contrast to what is often used as an explanation of their choice of political party. But, it was possible to see that the Sweden Democrats voters were significantly more negative towards Muslims than any other group of voters. These conclusions are both consistent with studies in other countries that show that they vote for right-wing populist parties because they perceive immigration as a cultural and sometimes economic threat, and that latent xenophobia is manifested through voting for right-wing extremist parties.

Peter Hedström and Tim Müller initiated the study while working at the Institute for Futures Studies, as a part of a research program that included the study of value changes and segregation processes. The area of research will still be a part in the new research program, albeit in a new form, since it will include the study of racism, sexism and discrimination.