The Limbik Deep Dive Series: How do NATO-related narratives resonate with Swedish adults?

Updated: Oct 13

The general election in Sweden that took place on September 11 has brought about a significant change to the political landscape: Sweden’s far-right party, the Sweden Democrats (SD), is now the second-largest party. As the last ballots from Swedes living overseas were counted, Sweden’s PM conceded the election, and a coalition of the SD and the Moderates will likely henceforth set Sweden’s political agenda. Elected members of the SD have been actively involved in spreading Russian propaganda. However, data shows that 72% of Sweden Democrats support Sweden’s accession to NATO - more than the voters of the ruling Social Democrats party and less than SD’s potential coalition partner, The Moderates. Meanwhile, the Green Party - which holds an anti-NATO position - has also gained a small increase of the vote this election cycle. As NATO accession nears, this week’s Deep Dive analyzes how NATO-related narratives were likely to resonate with Swedish adults in the week leading up to and immediately following the election.

The above Leaderboard ranks ten mis-, dis-, and/or mal-information (MDM) narratives related to NATO and Sweden/Finland by Limbik’s Potential for Impact (PFI) metric for the September 5 to September 12 monitoring period. PFI reflects whether artifacts (posts, comments, articles, etc.) promoting a certain narrative are likely to be considered believable by Swedish adults and to what extent these artifacts are likely to elicit engagement across social media platforms relative to topically-similar content online.

1.1 Narrative #1 by PFI: “Finland and Sweden may not have time to join NATO before it collapses”

Registering the highest PFI, the narrative that NATO is bound to collapse soon has been propagated since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and has been further facilitated by the news that Sweden and Finland are set to join the defense alliance. This doomsday narrative, sometimes propagated in artifacts lamenting rather than applauding this purported collapse, garnered a Believability score of 82, indicating that roughly 41% of Swedish adults find this narrative credible. It remains to be seen in the monitoring periods ahead whether the recent, successful Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region might impact the PFI of this narrative.


Source(s): Twitter

1.2 Narrative #2 by PFI: “NATO is a war alliance”

The extensive military support given to Ukraine by a range of NATO member states as well as logistical support provided by NATO proper has led to a high PFI for the “NATO is a war alliance” narrative among Swedish adults. Most artifacts paint the alliance as a hawkish, war-hungry organization, provoking Russia and waging unnecessary and bloody wars the world over. Of particular interest, the second artifact shown below (labeling NATO a murderer alliance) was ad verbatim replicated by a range of bot-like accounts on Twitter, demonstrating the impact of inauthentic amplification of this narrative.


Source(s): Twitter

1.3 Narrative #3 by PFI: “NATO bid will increase Russia’s nuclear missiles in the Baltics”

This narrative found resonance after the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council stated in April that Russia would deploy nuclear weapons in the Baltic region if NATO and Sweden were to join NATO. This narrative has changed slightly over time, with artifacts now advancing that Finland and Sweden’s NATO bid will lead to nuclear conflict with Russia. Recording 48.7 percent Foreign Influence (FI), this narrative was amplified by artifacts outside Sweden, including the United States, India, Pakistan, and Brazil. Foreign Influence percentage includes both artifacts posted by individuals and those part of coordinated (state-sponsored) influence operations.


Source(s): Twitter

The information landscape in the days leading up to the general election point towards the credibility of NATO-related MDM among some Swedish adults. However, these metrics demonstrate that there is only resonance of these narratives among a minority of Swedes. As Sweden is set to join NATO with a new government leading the country through this important change in defense policy, NATO-related MDM can crucially influence the social stability of a country in flux.

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