Annual report of the image of Sweden abroad 2018: summary

The annual report summarises the studies conducted by SI over the course of 2018, outlines the international indexes and studies that SI monitors and presents an overview of discussions and discourses about Sweden on digital platforms throughout 2018.

Above all, the report reinforces the conclusions drawn in studies previously conducted by SI. The most significant results are presented below:

  • A predominantly positive picture of Sweden. The studies that SI conducted between 2017 and 2018 demonstrate that the general public in the countries examined have an overall positive image of Sweden. Despite ongoing discussions about Sweden’s declining image abroad, the studies show that the general perception of Sweden in the countries considered has in fact become more positive in recent years. International studies that look at public perception of Sweden, among other countries, have also demonstrated this as well.
  • Sweden’s image is important for Swedes. In the national SOM survey, which was carried out in collaboration between SI and the SOM Institute at the University of Gothenburg, it was found that Swedish people consider it important that Sweden be regarded positively abroad.
  • Interest in the Swedish elections on digital platforms has been limited. In the SI report Notis eller världsnyhet [Footnote or Headline], which looked at how the recent Swedish elections were covered in other countries and discussed on digital platforms, it was found that there was a significant degree of discourse around the Swedish elections but that they did not receive as much coverage as other events in 2018. Involvement in discussions about the elections was relatively low, as indicated by low levels of interaction (number of articles shared) with the elections on social media platforms. The issues that received the most attention on social media platforms in connection with the elections primarily concerned possible attempts to influence the elections, the results of opinion polls, the potential for electoral fraud, the election results and the issue of migration. The Swedish elections received the most coverage in France, Germany and the USA and the least coverage in Russia.
  • Sweden was among the top ten countries in all indexes monitored by SI throughout 2018. Sweden distinguishes itself most within the areas of sustainability, innovation and its work on global issues. Sweden ranks first in both the Sustainable Development Goals Index and the Climate Change Performance Index. Within innovation, Sweden received the highest score in the European Innovation Scoreboard, which evaluates the national innovation systems of different countries, including both their corporate climate and their investments in research and higher education. Sweden also has a strong position within work on global issues, where it occupies the top spot in the Commitment to Development Index, which evaluates how the world’s strongest economies contribute towards developing countries.
  • Swedish wins in the FIFA World Cup and the death of Avicii were the most widely discussed stories on digital platforms over the year. Just as they had been in 2017, the most prominent topics discussed on digital platforms in 2018 were sport, culture/entertainment, politics and migration. The biggest events were first and foremost the FIFA World Cup and the death of Avicii, which both dominated discussions in all languages. In addition, certain events received greater attention within certain languages; Sweden’s mediation in the conflict in Yemen, for example, was a major topic on Arabic platforms. Where the discourse on Sweden has had a negative tone, this has primarily concerned matters to do with Sweden’s migration policy and integration issues. Positive discussions mainly concern innovation, sustainability, equality, Sweden’s welfare system and Sweden’s natural landscapes. It is however important to emphasise that in an international comparison, discourse on Sweden across digital platforms makes up only a very small fragment of all discourse across such platforms in total.

Read the full annual report on the image of Sweden abroad 2018 here (In Swedish)