A survey of Swedish woo

Sweden is regarded as one of the most secular countries in the world. Religion still plays a considerable role though, as well as many other kinds of superstitions. And how widespread are various pseudo sciences? Which conspiracy theories do Swedes believe in? How do they depend on age, sex, income, geography and political views?

The Swedish skeptic organization VoF (Vetenskap och Folkbildning) was founded in 1982 to counter pseudoscientific claims and raise public awareness of scientific methods and results. Over the years a general picture took form of how common various pseudosciences etc are, how they vary over time and between groups, but we haven't had hard facts – until now.

In the spring of 2015, a poll with a random sample of 1,113 Swedes was conducted on behalf of VoF. 52 questions were asked regarding the attitude to science, various conspiracy theories, medicine, faith and paranormal phenomena. The result was presented in October and got a lot of attention in media, in particular since it was the first of it's kind; Swedish woo has never been surveyed before.

Here are the data as diagrams, click for larger images.

General attitudes to science
Swedes generally believe in global warming (90 % in the three "believing" categories), evolution (85 %) and the scientific method (83 %). Many of us think GMOs are harmful to health (40 %) and nature (55 %). Also, ignorance is widespread regarding antroposophic Waldorf education (52 % expressed no particular opinion about it).

Conspiracy theories
Plenty of red indicates Swedes generally don't buy into conspiracy theories. Still, that 15 % think pharmaceutical companies don't want us healthy is sobering.

The case of Thomas Quick involved a man who admitted being the by far worst serial killer in the history of the country and was convicted for several murders, due to incredibly sloppy police work and downright unscientific psychological theories. Read more about The Strange Case of Thomas Quick, The Guardian October 22, 2015.

The Estonia disaster in 1994 was the deadliest shipwreck disaster in peacetime Europe. Of the 852 people who perished, 501 came from Sweden.

Medicine & health
Belief in electromagnetic hypersensitivity is pretty strong, with 38 % in the believeing categories. Swedes believe in vaccines, with just 7 % in the antivax categories and a further 10 % grey "don't know". That 14 % believe in homeopathy is less surprising than a whole 35 % responding that they don't know whether it works or not? Freud has, I've been told, more followers here than in most of Europe, though only a third of us wrongly think his theories were based on solid research.

Faith & the supernatural
Note, the first question about intelligent life on other planet does not mean such a belief is comparable with belief in God, angels or gods. The UFO question could have been better put but then again most people think about alien spaceships rather than actual unidentified flying objects. A fifth of us believe in a single unspecified God, almost a third in an unspecified higher power and 1 out of 25 in several gods. More Swedes believe in life after death (24 %) than in ghosts (15 %). Some 16 % believe in ghost talkers ... And again, despite nice big chunks of red there is a little too much blue to be comfortable, and plenty of grey too. How can you not have an opinion of whether astrology is bunk?

The survey contains lots more of course. The media got most enthusiastic by the political revelations and surprises, eg that belief in UFOs is strongest in the nationalistic party, reincarnation in the socialist party and chemtrails, believe it or not, in the liberal conservative party.

All in all, a great first attempt to map the woo of a country. Let's hope there will be more studies in the years to come to study trends and possibly get reliable data for the smaller groups, in particular the political parties.

Inga kommentarer: