Threats and violence against elected politicians
The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) focuses on strengthening the ability of local elected politicians to carry out their democratic mandate. It’s important to enable them to continue to play their vital role in Swedish local democracy, even during periods of uncertainty and change.
SALAR’s preventive work against threats and violence
SALAR’s work in this area started in 2016, and is funded by central government. The work aims to support local municipalities and regions to develop systematic structures and approaches to prevent and confront threats and other crimes directed against local politicians. You can read more about SALAR’s preventive work against threats and violence in the brochure below.
English summary of The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå) report Politician's Safety Survey
Brå (The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention) is a centre for knowledge about crime and crime prevention measures. This report is a summary of the Swedish report The Politician’s Safety Survey 2021 (”Politikernas trygghetsundersökning 2021” - report PTU no 2021:13).
The purpose of ”the Politician’s Safety Survey” (PTU) is to measure the extent and consequences of harassment, threats, and violence experienced by elected representatives who are exposed in their capacity as elected representatives.
The purpose of this most recent survey is also to compare exposure during the two election years 2018 and 2014 in relation to exposure during the three interim years 2012, 2016 and 2020.
As well as levels of exposure the report also looks at the consequences of victimisation and levels of concern, the degree to which incidents are reported to the police and what support and security measures that exist at the local and regional levels. Of the 13,400 elected representatives that constituted the sample population for the PTU 2021, almost 8,000 individuals participated.
In summary the 2021 report shows that:
- 26 per cent of the elected representatives reported being the victim of some form of threat or harassment, during 2020
- A total of 28 per cent of the female elected representatives and 25 per cent of the males stated that they had been victimised at least once during 2020.
- Younger elected representatives are the most victimised age group. Of the elected representatives aged 29 years or younger, 39 per cent stated that they had been victimised during 2020, compared to 13 per cent among the oldest age group (70 years or older).
- Victimisation increases with the elected representative’s level of activity on social media, mentions in the media, and public recognition.
- In total, 24 per cent of all elected representatives stated that, during 2020, they had felt concerned that either they themselves would be the victims of crime or similar unpleasant events, or that another person close to them would be victimised.
- Only 16 per cent of incidents in 2020 that concerned either threats and harassment or violence, vandalism and theft were reported to the police. This is the lowest level yet recorded in the PTU reports.
Generalizations and stigmatizations about local elected politicians
SALAR commissioned the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI) to explore how politicians are discussed in social media with regards to generalizations and negative stereotypes. The purpose of the study is to investigate the forms which prejudice directed against politicians takes on social media and which forms of prejudice are most common.
The study is based on an analysis of the comments section of articles published on 28 local newspapers' Facebook pages during the period January 1 and February 28, 2021. 1,273 of the comments mentioned politicians and elected officials were mentioned.
Slightly more than half of the comments were about individuals or party politics, while the other comments contained generalizations and prejudices about politicians as a group.
- The most common prejudices about politicians were that they do not take responsibility, are lazy, incompetent, hypocrites, bullies or power-mad. Something that became clear in the analysis of the material was that the actions of individual politicians often contribute to stereotypes of politicians in general.
- Only a small percentage of comments about politicians (0.5 percent) contained positive or neutral generalizations.
The report shows the democratic importance of a more nuanced discussion about politicians and elected representatives. The lumping together of all politicians under a common stereotype, rather than highlighting the diversity and variety exists within the political system contributes to hate speech and acts of aggression aimed at local politicians. There is a common responsibility to contribute to a respectful discussion climate as the basis for a functioning local democracy.