STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Support for EU membership among Swedes has slumped amid an ongoing asylum crisis, with a majority saying the 28-member bloc is going in the wrong direction, a poll showed on Monday.
Just 39 percent of Swedes said being in the EU was a good thing compared with 59 percent in autumn last year, the poll for Swedish television showed. Around a fifth of the 1,142 respondents said membership was a bad idea.
“Clearly the asylum crisis … plays a very big role,” said Umea University political scientist Magnus Blomgren.
More than 160,000 asylum seekers arrived in Sweden last year. With 10,000 a week arriving at the peak in November, the country said it could no longer provide shelter for newcomers.
The minority Social Democrat-Green coalition have imposed border checks and tighter rules in a U-turn on decades of generous asylum policies, as popular anger at other EU countries has grown for not doing enough to share the burden.
“Rarely have so many people been displaced in the world as they are right now, but rarely have so few European countries stepped up and been prepared to act,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven told the European Parliament last month.
With the United Kingdom set to vote on whether to remain in the EU in summer, the future of the 28-member bloc has gained increased focus in Sweden, which has also stayed out of the euro area and has been a close partner with Britain in Brussels.
“But I do not see any sign that the kind of criticism of the EU that is expressed in Britain has spilled over to Sweden,” Blomgren said.
Just over half told pollsters Sifo that the EU was going in the wrong direction compared with just 8 percent who thought things were improving.
Sifo said the results of the poll could have been affected by a change in methodology, with the most recent poll based on responses to an on-line questionnaire and the previous poll on individual interviews.
(Reporting by Simon Johnson and Daniel Dickson; Editing by Tom Heneghan)