Opinion corridor (Swedish: åsiktskorridor, Norwegian: meningskorridor) refers to a sociopolitical phenomenon that has been observed during the beginning of the 21st century in Sweden, and to some extent also in Norway. The expression itself was originally used in 2013 by Henrik Oscarsson, professor in political science at the University of Gothenburg, as a metaphor for the limits of what's commonly accepted to debate.
The concept is similar to the Overton window, which assumes a sliding scale of legitimate political conversation, and to Hallin's spheres, which assumes that the press implicitly groups issues into questions of wide consensus, legitimate controversy, and deviance. The Swedish Language Council has included the word åsiktskorridor in its 2014 list of neologisms.
In December 2013, political scientist Henrik Oscarsson described how he perceived that the space for freedom of opinion had been tightened in Swedish debates. He provided some examples of opinions that were rarely expressed despite being common throughout the population:
- 14% of Swedes agree with limiting the rights to abortion.
- 40% think that Sweden should accept fewer refugees.
- 60% want more animal rights.
- 50% of Swedes don't agree with allowing homosexual couples to adopt children.
- 20% think that there should be a death penalty for murder.
- 25% of all Swedes want to increase the number of wolves.
- Almost 10% want to reduce the expenditure for wind power.
- 5% agree with abolishing the graduation ceremonies in churches.
Oscarsson concluded with calling for "a more moderate and respectful attitude from policymakers".
In February 2015, Expressen editor Ann-Charlotte Marteus published an apology for being part of "constructing a corridor that prevented a constructive debate about migration and integration". She wrote that it was something that she started doing around 2002, when language tests were being debated and the Sweden Democrats started to become more influential. She was also afraid that Sweden's political climate would become more similar to that of Denmark.
Sweden didn't become like Denmark, thank goodness. Maybe the opinion corridor helped. But the price was high: widespread self-censorship, a fear to examine reality objectively, a diminished belief in the power of arguments. And as a result a dumbed-down public, moral-panicked politicians and social problems that should have gotten attention and been dealt with a long time ago. It proved to be an expensive corridor.
Erik Helmersson from Dagens Nyheter wrote that Sweden has many opinion corridors in which people rarely question the norms within the group. He blames the Swedish "culture of consensus" and that the social cost for presenting an opposing view is too high. He also praises director Stina Oscarson for her new expression "test speech" and states that it's important to allow people to try new ways of thinking without being smothered by blame and insults.
We live in a time where it's considered brave to think freely, despite that it's not forbidden.
During the first quarter of 2015, the statistical institute Demoskop conducted a survey named "Who dares to speak about their opinions?" which had a sample size of 4348. They observed the following trends:
- Increased hesitation in debates with people outside the usual social circles
- People with left-wing ideologies speak more openly while those that identify themselves as nationally oriented or conservative feel that they have more limitations
- Majorities risk being portrayed as minorities
- Immigration is the topic in which most people feel limited
Criticism and denial
Council politician Per Altenberg from the Liberals, while not addressing the research by professor Oscarsson, denied the existence of the opinion corridor and maintained that the corridor should not be discussed in his opinion piece entitled "There is no opinion corridor".
Let's get rid of the opinion corridor and end this whole debate about that there are things that you can't say in Sweden.
Columnist Malin Ullgren from Dagens Nyheter, while not addressing the research by professor Oscarsson, condemns the usage of the term, and describes it as a rhetorical device the far right uses to undermine the stability of society. She states that right-wing extremists have spent years on "systematic erosion of the limits of decency" to further their agendas and that the far right freely express their agendas.
Contributing to delusions about opinion corridors or "cover-up of truth by the elite" is to actively undermine democracy.
- Jande, Per-Anders; Svensson, Anders (29 December 2014). "Från attefallshus till åsiktskorridor". Språkrådet. Institutet för språk och folkminnen. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
- "Nyord". Språkrådet. January 2015. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
- Oscarsson, Henrik (10 December 2013). "Väljare är inga dumbommar". Retrieved 20 December 2015.
- Marteus, Ann-Charlotte (12 February 2015). "Det är jag som är åsiktskorridoren". Expressen. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
- Helmerson, Erik (3 May 2015). "Erik Helmerson: Vi ses i baren på åsiktshotellet". Dagens Nyheter. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
- Teodorescu, Alice (6 March 2015). "Jag vill riva åsiktskorridoren". Göteborgs-Posten. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
- Santesson, Peter (14 September 2015). "Vem vågar prata om sina åsikter?". Demoskop. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
- Altenberg, Per (24 May 2015). "Det finns inte någon åsiktskorridor". Svenska Dagbladet. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
- Ullgren, Malin (3 February 2016). "Om det fanns en åsiktskorridor så är den nu grundligt riven". Dagens Nyheter. Retrieved 27 February 2016.