Tensions beneath the surface: The Swedish mainstream parties and the immigration issue

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The main focus of this article is on how the Swedish mainstream parties on the centre-left and the centre-right have dealt with the immigration issue. After brief overviews of trends in immigration and public opinion, the history of immigration in Swedish politics since the 1980s is discussed. It is argued that the 2002 election campaign was of pivotal importance for a number of reasons; most importantly because it politicised labour immigration. The main empirical part consists of a qualitative content analysis of 25 election manifestos from 2002, 2006 and 2010. The analysis shows a clear difference between the mainstream parties and the Sweden Democrats. More importantly, there are differences also among the mainstream parties, in terms of the relative amount of space devoted to immigration as well as substantive content. This is most evident on the centre-left. There is more coherence on the centre-right, but also here underlying tensions can be detected. Thus, the issue of immigration has the potential to destabilise the two main political blocs, as well as the entire party system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-416
Number of pages18
JournalActa Politica
Issue number4
Early online date5 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015

Bibliographical note

Additional information
Note: Except where otherwise stated, the documents can be retrieved from the Swedish National Data Service (SND) at Göteborg University (http://snd.gu.se/en/vivill). Some documents can be retrieved from more than one URL address, but they were all retrievable from SND, or the addresses given above, on 13 August 2014.


  • migration policy
  • labour immigration
  • Swedish politics
  • party systems
  • election manifestos


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