Transatlantic Trends 2014 portrays a Swedish public opinion far less concerned with the impact of the economic crisis than publics elsewhere in Europe. Swedes value the benefits of being in the EU, and, as in previous years, clearly favor a forward-leaning foreign policy. A majority continue to oppose joining NATO — but the numbers of those who disagree are slowly rising.
Sixty-two percent of Swedish respondents expressed a desire for of U.S. leadership in world affairs. Sixty-two percent also said they had a favorable opinion of the United States — a five percentage point increase since 2013, but still seven percentage points lower than in 2011.
Sixty-four percent of respondents in Sweden approved of U.S. President Barack Obama’s international policies. Nonetheless, Swedes were divided between wanting the transatlantic relationship to remain about the same (36%) and wanting Sweden to take a more independent approach (35%).
A vast majority described a strong leadership role for the European Union as desirable (76%),and 65% said that they have a favorable opinion of the European Union. Seventy-four percent of Swedish respondents approved of the way the Swedish government is handling international policies, compared to 52% of Europeans in general and 35% of Americans. The percentage of Swedes who approved of the way their government is managing relations with Russia was also relatively high: 56%, compared to 28% who disapproved.
Swedes were strongly opposed to Chinese and Russian leadership (58% and 77%, respectively),and Sweden had the highest percentage of respondents express a negative opinion of Russia(78%).
ECONOMY,THE EU, AND MIGRATION
Twenty-three percent of Swedes — a plurality — named unemployment as the most important issue facing their country. Seventeen percent said the economy was the most important issue,and the same number cited the environment, a concern not raised anywhere else. Swedish respondents felt generally unaffected by the economic crisis. Only 22% said that they or their family had been personally affected, seven percentage points lower than in 2013 and the lowest of any European country by a significant margin. Seventy-seven percent said that they had not been affected, compared to 41% in Europe in general and 26% in the United States.
Swedes remained convinced of the positive impact of EU membership, though a majority felt that the euro would have a negative impact on their economy. Sixty-three percent said that membership in the European Union is a good thing, while 75% said that adoption of the euro would be a bad thing, six percentage points lower than in 2013. Among Swedish respondents who felt EU membership had been good for their country, 39% said it was because “the European Union is a community of democracies that should act together”; 33% said it was because of “the freedom to travel, work, and study within its borders that it afforded.” Among respondents who felt membership had been bad, 55% felt there was too much authority in the European Union.
In contrast to most European countries and the United States, Swedish respondents approved of the immigration policies of their government (60%). When asked about how they felt about the number of immigrants living in Sweden, 17% said there were “too many,” compared to 32% of Europeans in general and 38% of Americans; 49% said “a lot but not too many” and 30% said “not many.” Swedes were also the most likely in the European Union to say that they were not worried about immigration from within the EU (82%) or outside the EU (69%).
However, the majority of Swedish respondents felt that immigrants are integrating poorly into Swedish society (65%), though they said that the children of immigrants are integrating well(52%). Emigration was not seen as a problem in Sweden (82%), while 58% of Europeans in general said that it was.
TRANSATLANTIC SECURITY COOPERATION
As in previous years, Swedish respondents stood out in Europe for their willingness to participate in military operations carried out by NATO — especially when supported by the United Nations. Fifty-four percent said this year that they supported the participation of Sweden in NATO military operations — an increase of seven percentage points since 2013. The number reached 60% when the same question was asked about military interventions sanctioned by the United Nations. A slow upwards trend can be observed in the percentage of Swedish respondents expressing a desire for Sweden to join NATO: 24% supported Swedish NATO membership in 2012, 36% in 2013, and 39% in 2014.
Swedes also supported imposing economic sanctions on Iran (38%), and strongly supported providing economic and political support to Ukraine — even at the risk of increasing conflict with Russia (73%). When asked how the European Union should react to Russian actions in Ukraine, a plurality of Swedes opposed offering NATO membership to Ukraine (49%),but supported offering EU membership (56%) and increasing economic aid (72%). Swedes were more hesitant about providing military supplies and equipment to Ukraine (54% were opposed), but supported stronger sanctions against Russia (68%).