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The Limits of a Commitment? Public Responses to Asylum Policy in Sweden over Time

Journal article
Authors Dennis Andersson
Anna Bendz
Helena Olofsdotter Stensöta
Published in Scandinavian Political Studies
Volume 41
Issue 3
Pages 307-335
ISSN 0080-6757
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Political Science
Pages 307-335
Language en
Keywords self-interest, dynamic representation, social-policy, opinion, attitudes, welfare, responsiveness, communication, immigration, feedback, Government & Law, llicarpini mx, 1993, am j political sci, v0037, imson ja, 1995, american political science review, v89, p543
Subject categories Political Science


It is hardly an exaggeration to claim that one of the most turbulent political areas in recent years has been asylum policy, which has disclosed a rapidly increasing inflow of asylum seekers, and, in many countries, has been followed by fierce media discussion and political controversies. In Sweden, this development has been heated as the Swedish self-image is one of providing generous policies, which is also reflected in terms of strong refugee policy. The article uses this example to explore assumptions about public responsiveness in previous policy feedback literature and to examine the link between citizens' attitudes towards immigration and changes in asylum policy output, measured as asylums granted, over time in the period 1990-2015. It focuses especially on the link through which citizens become aware of policy output, operationalized as media visualization, and find that including media reveals a suppressed relationship between policy output and public attitudes. The relationship is negative and thus confirms the assumptions of the thermostatic models. Second, the article shows that feedback is mediated by political orientation: People defining themselves politically as right-oriented respond with negative feedback when the number of granted asylums increases, while left-oriented people do not change their attitudes. Based on these findings it is concluded, first, that analyses of democratic responsiveness need to incorporate a clear measure of the link by which exogenous factors become visible. Second, the importance needs to be stressed of considering important cleavages in the population in order to display responsiveness processes fairly.

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