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Friday, June 08, 2018

Is Sweden about to have its Trump moment?

Is Sweden about to have its Trump moment?

"Sweden will head to the polls on September 9th. The pre-election polls predict that this will be a watershed election for Swedes, perhaps the first since 1917 where the Social Democratic Party does not finish first. The reason this might happen, though, is familiar to anyone following politics in the West. Blue-collar voters, who have traditionally voted for the centre-left, are leaving the party over its views on immigration...

Even if the Social Democrats do finish first, polls predict they may “win” with only 23 to 26% of the vote, their worst result for over a century.

This is all the more striking given that the government has benefited from a favourable business cycle, with declining unemployment and a budget surplus. Sweden has experienced a credit boom with low interest rates, solid wage growth and declining unemployment, as well as benefiting from the global recovery with rising exports. This would normally guarantee re-election, but for the first time in Swedish electoral history, it is immigration and crime that top voter concerns. And Swedes are not happy with the Social Democratic record on those issues.

Only 27% of Swedes believe the country is heading in the right direction, while 50% think that it is going in the wrong direction. Other surveys confirm widespread discontent, which tends to be higher outside major cities...

Defying the historic stability of the Swedish party system, the Sweden Democrats have roughly doubled their vote share in each election since 2002, when they scored little more than 1%. The average of recent polls puts them around 19 to 23%. In fact, this may be an underestimate, since polls have in the past significantly undercounted their vote share...

Attributing opposition to immigration to underlying bitterness with economics is as common among the Left in Sweden as in America, since they too would prefer not to confront the underlying tension in their movement. Swedish blue-collar workers are generally economically left wing, but right wing in their views on multiculturalism, whereas left wing party elites tend to lean left on both.

Swedish media has written stories on why the Swedish equivalent of “deplorables” or “white van man” have abandoned the Left. The tone of those stories – as with many in America and Britain – is revealingly reproachful. But nothing suggests that these voters are confused on the issues or scapegoat migrants for their own economic woes. The generous refugee migration championed by parties on the Left was not particularly popular in the first place, never really enjoying majority support outside culturally liberal urban areas. Today, opinions towards restricting migration and the generous support migrants receive has hardened among all segments of the Swedish population, and is particularly strong among blue-collar union members.

In-depth polling indicates that the majority who favour restrictive refugee migration policies are fairly well informed. Most express sympathy for refugees, but offer specific arguments for restrictive policies. Many offer some version of the view that Sweden can help refugees in other ways. In polls, very few Swedes express fear that migrants take native jobs, but tend to point to crime, pressure on the welfare state and, most importantly, the lack of integration into Swedish society. These views are not unique to low-educated rural voters, although they may be more common among them, but rather are held by many people across social and educational groups...

The growth of the Sweden Democrats owes much to the fatal strategy pursued by the Social Democrats of silencing and antagonising their own core-supporters expressing the majority opinion on immigration.

At the core of it, shifting Swedish politics is simple, and has little to do with either deindustrialisation, racist deplorables or bitter clingers – however emotionally appealing it is for progressives to blame these factors. Sweden’s highly generous refugee policy never had majority support among voters, including Social Democratic voters. Blue-collar voters who dared to express even mild protest were bullied and branded as hateful or ignorant by their own party. The only outlet for that built-up resentment has been the Sweden Democrats, and while in the run up to the election the Social Democrats have moved sharply to the Right on migration and crime issues, the mistakes of the past years may prove difficult to repair for this once invincible party."

Sweden Elections 2018: Immigration Drives Center-Left Voters Away

"The Moderates have not been able to been able to capitalize on this to the extent that would be expected in many other countries. That’s because during their last period in government (under Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt) they embraced an arrogantly relaxed immigration policy for reasons that ranged from simple-minded libertarianism to junk economics to a sense of their own moral superiority"
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