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New study showing previous stabile confidence in institutions among Swedes

The corona crisis has brought up to date the question of confidence in institutions among the Swedes. Until now the confidence has been high and stabile, with a few dramatic exceptions.

This is the result of a new study that Tim Segerberg, master student in political science, has done for the JMG research project Crisis Communication and Social Trust in a Multi-Public Society (KRISAMS) at University of Gothenburg.

Portrait of Tim SegerbergSwedes have for a long time characterized as having a high confidence in insitutions. The fact that politicians and authorities even during the corona crisis trust the citizens will and ability to understand and follow recommendations, rather than enforcing restrictions, is something that has attracted worldwide attention.

How the Swedish confidence in institutions and trust in each other will be affected by the ongoing pandemic is yet unknown.

– But previous crises do not seem to have affected the trust in institutions. Quite contrary it has been stabile during the 13 major national crises that we have studied during the past 30 years, says Tim Segerberg.

13 crises since 1986

He has analyzed the Swedish confidence in institutions since 1986, when this was first measured by the SOM-institute in their annual surveys, and until 2017. During these years the following crises occurred:

  • The refugee crisis 1989
  • The financial crisis 1990-1994
  • The Estonia disaster 1994
  • The Gothenburg discothèque fire 1998
  • The murder of Anna Lindh 2003
  • The tsunami 2004
  • Gudrun the hurricane 2005
  • The financial crisis 2008-2009
  • The swine flu 2009-2010
  • The bombings in Stockholm 2010
  • The forest fire in Västmanland 2014
  • The refugee crisis 2015-2016
  • The terror act in Stockholm 2017

Resilient confidence

– Thanks to the studies conducted by the SOM-institute, that build on many participants, we have a unique source of information about the confidence among the public and how this has changed during crises, says Tim Segerberg.

Also it shows that Swedes in general have a resilient confidence in institutions.

– Most crises seem to have had quite a small effect, despite many of them being severe threats against society. There are exceptions though – the two financial crises.

During the financial crise during the 1990s the confidence in the banks literally fell apart within all sections of society – something that the banks never really managed to restore.

– Even though the loss was not quite as big during the next financial crisis, there was a loss of confidence in the banks then as well. On the other hand the confidence in the politicians increased, probably due to an ability to convey a unanimous image in the media of how the crisis should be handled.

Additional studies are needed

During the refugee crisis 2015 the public confidence decreased, but mostly for the political institutions and the police plus to some degree for radio/TV.

Other crises that to some extent affected the confidence were among other the discothèque fire, the swine flu and the terror act 2017.

– Our results imply so far that they haven´t had any long-term decisive significance for the public confidence, but additional studies are needed.

The public confidence in institutions is central in crises. This goes for both the importance in getting information about what happens during tha crise, how it is handled and what consequences that kan arise afterwards.

– If the citizens don´t trust the information, the whole crisis management is much more difficult: Also if the public trust is destroyed by the crisis communication from the institutions it can be diffcult to move on afterwards.

The corona crisis is being studied now

Right now Bengt Johansson, professor at JMG, and the research team at KRISAMS are studying how the public confidence is being affected by the corona crisis.

A survey has been sent out to about 20 000 people by the Laboratory of Opinion Research (LORE) at the SOM-institute. The results will be published during the spring.

Read the report (in Swedish)

Det motståndskraftiga förtroendet – kriser och institutionellt förtroende i Sverige 1986-2017 av Tim Segerberg (JMG 2020).

For more information, contact:

Tim Segerberg, masterstudent in political science, phone: 0730-94 56 69, e-mail:

Bengt Johansson, professor at JMG, phone: 0702-21 24 02, e-mail:

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