Coronavirus in the Swedish media – Confidence in government officials is growing

The Swedish public’s confidence in government officials, who provide comment in the media about the coronavirus, has risen in recent weeks.  When it comes to media coverage of the pandemic, the Swedes have the greatest confidence in public service broadcasters – Swedish Television (SVT) and Sveriges Radio. These are the latest findings of a study being conducted by the Swedish non-profit organisation VA (Public & Science).

A collage of webpages belonging to Swedish news outlets and authorities during the corona pandemic, with an illustration of the virus in the forefront. Pictures collected on 2020-03-27.

There are many different professional groups that provide comment on the coronavirus in the Swedish news media. The topic that has generated a lot of debate in recent weeks has been Sweden’s approach to tackling the crisis in contrast to the actions taken by other countries. There is limited evidence of the effectiveness of different approaches and experts disagree on the best path.

In collaboration with researchers at the Karolinska Institute and Södertörn University, the Swedish organisation VA (Public & Science) is conducting a study of how people are receiving and interpreting information about the coronavirus and the ongoing pandemic. These findings are from the second survey in the study.

Highest confidence in public service broadcasting

Eight out of ten Swedes have fairly or very high confidence in Sweden’s public service broadcasters’ reporting of the coronavirus – Sveriges Television (SVT, 83 percent) and Sveriges Radio (SR, 78 percent). Among people aged 65 years or older, the corresponding figure for SVT is even higher (89 percent), while that for SR is slightly, but not statistically significant, higher (81 percent). However, a big difference can be seen between those that support different political parties: those with the highest confidence in SVT are supporters of the Left Party (95 percent) and those with the lowest confidence are supporters of the national-conservative Sweden Democrats (57 percent). Among daily newspapers, the Swedish public has the greatest confidence in reporting provided by Dagens Nyheter (DN, 49 percent), followed by Svenska Dagbladet (SvD, 45 percent) as well as local morning newspapers (42 percent). There is less confidence in the coverage provided by the evening tabloids  (25 percent for Aftonbladet and 20 percent for Expressen). However, our previous survey showed that more Swedes get news about the coronavirus from Aftonbladet and Expressen than from DN and SvD. The evening tabloids, therefore, seem to be popular, albeit less trusted, sources of information about the coronavirus.

Confidence in government officials is increasing

As in our previous survey, Swedes have the greatest confidence in doctors/other healthcare professionals plus researchers among the different professional groups that comment about the coronavirus in the news media. However, in this second wave we see a rise in the Swedish public’s confidence in government officials, which has risen by twelve percentage points (from 60 percent to 72 percent). The increase in confidence in government officials can be seen in all age groups, but particularly among those aged 65 or older, where the proportion with fairly or very high confidence has increased by 21 percentage points (from 58 percent to 79 percent). Confidence in politicians and journalists has also increased, albeit to a lesser extent.

Different levels of agreement among professional groups 

Occasionally, disagreements arise within various professional groups with regard to Sweden’s handling of the corona pandemic. In our survey, 85 percent of Swedes consider that doctors and other healthcare professionals are fairly or very in agreement about how the coronavirus pandemic is being managed. Government officials are perceived as being more in agreement than researchers (78 percent compared to 73 percent). However, one in five Swedes (20 percent) regards researchers as not particularly or not at all in agreement with one another. The professional group that is perceived to be the least in agreement is journalists. Only four out of ten Swedes believe that journalists are fairly or very in agreement in their views of Sweden’s handling of the corona pandemic.

About the survey

The survey was conducted by Kantar Sifo and consisted of 1,002 interviews with a web panel based on random sampling. The interviews were conducted between 2–5 April 2020. The results are weighted based on gender, age and region of residence.

Ongoing studies

In order to monitor the Swedish public’s news consumption, confidence in key professional groups and attitudes towards media reporting over time, we intend to conduct further studies during the course of the pandemic. We also plan to undertake a content analysis of reporting on the coronavirus in the Swedish media in order to map any changes in reporting during different phases, and how this relates to public attitudes during the same time period. Read more about VA’s study.

The study is being conducted with the support of the Anne-Marie och Gustaf Anders Foundation  for Media Research, LIF – the Swedish Association of the Pharmaceutical Industry, the Wenner-Gren Foundations and the Swedish Research Council.


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