The image of Sweden abroad in 2022

Every year, the Swedish Institute presents a yearly report on the image of Sweden abroad. 2022 was a year largely dominated by Russia's invasion of Ukraine and by geopolitical and economic instability. It has characterised the international conversation and reporting about Sweden.
Glaspelare vid Sergels torg i Stockholm, lyser i gult och blått - för att markera stöd till Ukraina.

Sweden has been subject to an intensive information influence campaign during the year, which has had an impact on the world’s reporting. In contrast to the past two years, Sweden’s pandemic management is no longer central to foreign reporting on Sweden, in 2022 other issues have been in focus. Sweden has been part of major geopolitical events, not least due to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. There has been particularly intensive reporting on Sweden’s NATO application and on the leaks on Nordsteam 1 and 2.

When SI summarises the past year, we see a continued positive perception of Sweden by the general public in other countries. However, the picture is challenged by our analysis of the media reporting, which may possibly give some cause for concern about how the perception of Sweden is about to change in certain parts of the world.

The NATO application was the year’s most prominent theme in foreign reporting about Sweden

No other event had a greater impact in the international media than Sweden’s NATO application. The tone of the reporting has largely been neutral and factual. When the annual measurement Ispos Nations Brand Index was released last fall, it was possible to see that Sweden is stable, as in previous years in place 9 among the ranked countries, but that the picture has deteriorated in Russia and Turkey. It is judged to be due to the NATO process.

The image of Sweden in focus in information influence campaigns

The image of Sweden has also been in focus linked to the information influence campaign against social services (the so-called LVU campaign). It has generated very intense, negative reporting about Sweden, not least in social media in the Middle East and in Arabic-speaking countries. The Koran burnings that took place around Sweden and the riots that followed also received a lot of attention.

Crime is a continuing recurring theme in the reporting on Sweden

However, it is not a main focus, compared to other events in 2022. When the outside world reports on crime in Sweden, it is mainly linked to individual events. Most prominent is the reporting on Swedish crime in Norway and Denmark.

The parliamentary elections created interest

The 2022 parliamentary election was highlighted in foreign media, usually with a neutral and factual tone in the coverage. Swedish elections have previously attracted attention in the Nordic countries, but this year we could see more extensive reporting than before, even in major news media in countries such as Great Britain and the United States.