Tino Sanandaji asks whether a “Trump Moment” might happen in Sweden’s upcoming general elections, driven by an immigration backlash:
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.3 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….
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.
One of the remarkable things about mass immigration policies in European countries is that they went on for decades despite being opposed by most of the population.
I think this is all about salience: For decades, ordinary voters weren’t happy about the levels of immigration national political elites were allowing, but the issue wasn’t salient enough to drive their vote. Other issues (economy, education, foreign policy) were more important, and that’s what drove voters. Recently, though, the problems associated with large-scale, low-skill immigration have become so glaringly obvious that the salience of immigration has skyrocketed — voters all across Europe now rank immigration as their top concern (g).
More voters are willing to make immigration their primary, or even only, issue. And when they do, they will find parties in every European country ready and waiting for their vote. In Sweden, that’s the Sweden Democrats:
Support for the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats has surged ahead of an election in September to the point where it could be hard for the government or opposition to form a working majority without their support, a poll showed on Tuesday.
Immigration has dominated debate ahead of the Sept. 9 vote, which has helped the Sweden Democrats whose support increased to 18.5 percent from 14.8 percent in November, according to the poll by the government’s Statistics Office.