High confidence in researchers in Sweden during the omicron wave

Traditional news media continue to be Swedes’ main source of news about the coronavirus. Researchers enjoy a high level of confidence and the lifting of restrictions in Sweden did not affect public confidence in the professional groups who comment on the coronavirus. These are the results of a follow-up survey conducted by the non-profit organisation VA (Public & Science) to investigate communication about the coronavirus in Sweden.

Image on the tablet: Coronavirus Disease 2019 Rotator Graphic for af.mil. (U.S. Air Force Graphic by Rosario ”Charo” Gutierrez)

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken some new turns since the turn of the year 2021/2022. The number of people in Sweden who tested positive initially increased dramatically as a result of the new omicron variant. Just over a month later, a high vaccination rate in combination with the milder symptoms of the variant led to restrictions in Sweden being lifted on 9 February.

In collaboration with researchers from the Karolinska Institute and Södertörn University, VA (Public & Science) conducted a study during 2020 and 2021 of how people were receiving and interpreting information about the coronavirus. Due to the exceptionally rapid spread of the omicron variant, we conducted a follow-up survey on 28 January – 9 February 2022. In the middle of the survey period (3 February), it was announced that the government restrictions in Sweden would be lifted. By comparing responses collected before and after the announcement, we have been able to investigate any differences following this decision.

News media are most common source of information

Traditional news media such as TV, radio or newspapers are, as seen in our previous surveys, the main source of information about the coronavirus for three out of four Swedes (75 percent). Among those aged 65 years or older, 90 percent state that news media are their most common source of information, compared with 63 percent among people aged between 18 and 29.

For younger people, to a greater extent, it is people in their personal environment (e.g. friends, family or neighbours) who are their main source of information about the virus (11 percent in the age group 18–29 years, compared with 4–5 percent among others). It is also more common for people in their personal environment to be the main source among women (8 percent) compared to men (3 percent).

In September 2020, one in ten Swedes (11 percent) did not access information about the coronavirus at all, compared with only three percent in the follow-up survey. The proportion who did not access information at all is greater among supporters of the Sweden Democrats (7 percent). There is no difference in responses gathered before or after the press conference when the lifting of the restrictions was announced.


For younger people, to a greater extent, it is people they are close to (e.g. friends, family or neighbours) who are their main source of information about the coronavirus.

Polarised confidence in different professions

Swedes have the greatest confidence in doctors and other healthcare professionals (88 percent) and researchers (87 percent) who comment on the coronavirus, which is similar to what was seen in previous waves of the survey conducted during the pandemic. This is followed by government officials (64 percent), politicians (28 percent) and journalists (19 percent). Journalists and politicians are the only professional groups where the proportion of Swedes who say they have a fairly/very low confidence is greater than the proportion with fairly/very high confidence. In the age group 18–29, a larger proportion (92 percent) have high confidence in researchers compared with other age groups (85–87 percent). Among women, 90 percent have high confidence in researchers, compared with 84 percent among men.

Confidence in professional groups is quite clearly linked to political party support. Supporters of the Sweden Democrats have lower confidence than others in all professional groups. At the same time, a much smaller proportion of supporters of the Sweden Democrats state a low level of confidence in government officials today (30 percent) compared with April 2021 (when the corresponding proportion was 51 percent). Supporters of the Social Democrats have higher confidence in all professional groups except journalists compared with others. Confidence in all professional groups was at the same level among the responses received before and after the press conference on 3 February.


Journalists and politicians are the only professional groups where the proportion of Swedes who say they have a fairly/very low confidence is greater than the proportion with fairly/very high confidence.

Greater agreement about Sweden’s handling of the coronavirus

When it comes to Sweden’s handling of the corona pandemic, most professional groups are perceived to be more in agreement today than in April 2021. Doctors/healthcare professionals and government officials are seen as fairly or very in agreement by 83 percent of Swedes. This is followed by researchers (75 percent), journalists (51 percent) and politicians (45 percent). Perceived agreement in the academic community has decreased somewhat after the press conference on 3 February (before the press conference, 78 percent perceived researchers as in agreement, compared with 73 percent after the announcement). For other professional groups, no differences can be seen before or after the press conference.

When it comes to Sweden’s handling of the corona pandemic, most professional groups are perceived to be more in agreement today than in April 2021

Less hyped tone

The perception of the tone of the media reporting on the coronavirus is one of the questions where responses varied most during the pandemic. In the follow-up survey, just under four out of ten Swedes (38 percent) perceive the tone as fairly or very hyped/alarmist. This is less than in the previous wave of survey conducted in April 2021, when one in two Swedes (49 percent) shared the same opinion. In the latest survey, a larger proportion perceive the tone as neither hyped/alarmist nor cautious/watchful. Supporters of the Sweden Democrats are particularly inclined to perceive the tone as hyped/alarmist (58 percent). Men perceive the reporting as hyped/alarmist to a greater extent than women (45 and 32 percent, respectively). There is no difference in the results before or after the press conference on 3 February.


Fewer people perceive the tone of reporting as fairly or very hyped/alarmist compared to the previous wave of the survey conducted in April 2021.

About the survey

The survey was conducted by Kantar Sifo and consisted of 1,041 interviews with a web panel based on random sampling. The interviews were conducted 28 January –9 February 2022. The results are weighted based on gender, age and region of residence.

In the study we have been tracking the Swedish public’s news consumption, confidence in key professional groups and attitudes towards media reporting over time, through a number of surveys conducted during the course of the pandemic. We also undertook a content analysis of the reporting on the coronavirus in the Swedish media in order to map any changes in reporting during different phases, and how this related to public attitudes during the same time period. The main study was conducted with the support of the Anne-Marie and Gustaf Anders Foundation for media research, the Karolinska Institute, the Swedish Association of the Pharmaceutical Industry (Lif),  Södertörn University, the Swedish Research Council and the Wenner-Gren Foundations.

Read more about the study here.
Read an English summary of the final report here.


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