Monday, 27 December 2010

Poll suggests 63 % of Swedes want the King to abdicate at some stage

A wave of opinion polls seems to engulf the Swedish monarchy this year and another one published in Aftonbladet during Christmas has attracted much attention as it shows that a majority of the respondees are in favour of King Carl Gustaf abdicating at some stage.
In this poll by Sifo only 30 % of the 1,000 respondees expressed the opinion that the King should remain on the throne until his death, while 15 % want him to hand over to Crown Princess Victoria as soon as possible, 27 % say he should do so within five years and another 21 % within ten years.
82 % say their trust in the King has not changed in the past year, while 14 % say it has decreased and 3 % that it has increased. 74 % want to retain the monarchy, whereas 21 % want a republic and 5 % are undecided.
60 % think Crown Princess Victoria is the member of the royal family most suited to be head of state, while 25 % answer the King, 3 % Prince Carl Philip and 1 % each for the Queen, Prince Daniel and Princess Madeleine.
When asked to name one favourite member of the royal family 56 % go for the Crown Princess, 10 % for Princess Madeleine, 8 % the King, 4 % the Queen, 3 % Prince Carl Philip and 1 % Prince Daniel.


  1. Were they asked how strongly they felt about the issue? It seems to me that it is different to answer a hypothetical question than it would be to answer a question about an issue that is being seriously debated and resulting in widespread petitions, demonstrations, etc.

  2. I have never heard of a poll asking the respondees how strongly they feel about the answer they have given, something which would in my opinion also complicate matters to such an extent that the poll would be virtually useless.

    And is this not really just like in real life? When one goes to cast one's vote on election day one can either choose not to vote/cast a blank ballot or to vote for one of the parties/candidates. Many will not agree 100 % with the party or candidate they vote for, but one does not get the chance to register a view saying that one actually only supports for instance Labour to the extent of 75 % or that one does vote for the Liberals, but do not feel very strongly about it.

    Those polled were given five options: that the King should abdicate as soon as possible, that he should do so within five years, that he should do so within ten years, that he should never do so or don't know. There should in my opinion have been a sixth possibility, as the five options leave nothing for those who think the King should abdicate, but at a later stage than in ten years (when he will be 74).

    One might argue that virtually all opinion polls (except exit polls on election day) are about more or less hypothetical questions. Of course the King of Sweden is not going to abdicate (the only voluntary abdications in Swedish history are those of Queen Christina in 1654 and Queen Ulrika Eleonora the Younger in 1720), but nevertheless the results of the poll are quite interesting.

    Another poll earlier this year found that 32 % were of the opinion that the King should abdicate before he reaches the age of retirement (on 30 April 2011), while 50 % thought he should remain on the throne.

    A Danish poll in April showed that 42.6 % thought Queen Margrethe should remain on the throne until her death (which is what she has repeatedly said is what she is going to do), while 45.6 % combined thought she should abdicate either on her 70th birthday or within the next ten years.

    There is no similar poll in Norway, but the closest thing available is a poll earlier this year which found that 79 % agreed entirely or partly with the idea that King Harald should be allowed to abdicate *if he wants so himself* and that 55 % held the opinion that there should be an age of retirement for monarchs.

    Seen together these three polls from three monarchies where there are no traditions for voluntary abdication and where the issue is not being seriously debated might perhaps suggest that support for (or understanding of?) the system whereby the post as head of state is held until death is decreasing. But of course it might also have to do with other issues, such as the popularity of the heir or the apparently growing misconception that people over the age of 70 cannot be used for much.

  3. It is very common in polling in the USA to try to gauge the strength of respondents' feelings on an issue, but perhaps it is not the case in Europe.

    Your point about the trend in the three polls is very interesting indeed. It seems especially surprising because since the previous kings of Norway and Sweden both reigned well past 80. Did anyone ever call for either of them to "retire," or is this in fact a real change of public attitudes?

  4. I am interested to hear that, but somewhat puzzled as to how that works in practice. Will the result of a poll say that for example 20 % believe Sarah Palin should run for president and that out of those 20 %, x % feel extremely strongly about it, y % very strongly, z % quite strongly, etc; or will it say that out of total, x % feel extremely strongly that she should run, y % feel very strongly that she should, z % feel quite strongly that she should, w % feel that she should but not strongly, q % feel extremely strongly that she should not, etc? Both ways seem to complicate the results quite severely in my eyes, but of course that might depend on what one is used to.

    There is no recent history of voluntary abdications in Norway nor Sweden (although the possibility of abdication has been used as a political tool or threat in both countries and there have been forced abdications in Norway in 1814 and 1905 and in Sweden in 1809). King Haakon is known to have considered abdicating in favour of his son following WWII, but in 1957, when the issue was raised by the newspaper Nordly after the King had been ill and not seen in public for two years, he was hurt by the suggestion. As far as I know the issue was never raised in the last years of King Olav. Such polls (or indeed polls about the monarchy in itself) were not common in Norway then, probably because of the extreme popularity enjoyed by the King during his final decade. The issue was not raised during the regency in the last seven months of King Olav's life, in which he found it very difficult to hand over the reins to the regent (King Harald has spoken about some of the difficulties this caused). It is also interesting that when the Queen's former secretary Carl-Erik Grimstad sometime around 1997 suggested that there should be a retirement age for kings it caused a storm of protests and was seen as an attack on King Harald, while this year's poll suggests that this is now a fairly common idea.

    In Sweden there was not much time to discuss the possible abdication of King Gustaf VI Adolf. As he had lost his son, he would have to live until his grandson came of age, which did not happen until 1971, when the old king was about to turn 89. By then King Gustaf Adolf was also very popular and Crown Prince Carl Gustaf seen as something of an immature playboy, which meant that most people would have wanted the King to live for as long as possible. The King's brother-in-law, Lord Mountbatten, on the other hand concluded that the monarchy's best chance of survival was if Carl Gustaf succeeded to the throne while his grandfather was still alive and from 1971 till 1973 Mountbatten kept pestering King Gustaf Adolf about abdicating.

    In a longer historical perspective there were calls for King Carl XIV Johan to abdicate in favour of his son when he was considered old and reactionary and Crown Prince Oscar seen as the liberal hope of Sweden and Norway. Political diaries also suggest that the issue of abdication was broached when Oscar II's health was in decline in the early 20th century and that it was suggested that Queen Sophia might succeed in convincing him. As we know there was no abdication in either of these cases (although Oscar II did formally abdicate the Norwegian throne on 26 October 1905, four months after he had been deposed by Parliament).

  5. Usually they will ask something like:
    1. Do you approve or disapprove of the new health care law?
    a. Approve
    b. Disapprove
    c. Don't know/No Opinion

    2. How likely is it that a candidate's position on the health care law would affect your decision to vote for him/her?
    a. Very likely
    b. Somewhat likely
    c. Somewhat unlikely
    d. Very unlikely
    e. Not at all likely

    Therefore, if a candidate sees that 70% of her potential constituents support the law, but only 5 of those 70 are likely to vote on that issue, whereas 20% oppose the law but 15 of those are very likely to vote on that issue, she may want to stress her anti-law position even though the majority of voters disagree with her.

    Thanks for the history of (non-)abdications. (Lord Mountbatten always seems to have been pestering someone about something, not least his long-suffering brother-in-law!)

  6. Ah, I see - that is a more indirect way of asking how strongly one feels for an issue than I imagined. Such questioning is also used over here, but would perhaps not be very applicable in the exact case causing this discussion.

    Indeed Mountbatten must have been a constant pesterer, also with his sister's Swedish family. He also seems to have taken a very keen interest in getting Crown Prince/King Carl Gustaf married to someone of his (Mountbatten's) choice (Lady Jane Wellesley or Lady Leonora Grosvenor). During the wedding in 1976 Queen Margrethe told Queen Silvia that "he may not have taken any part in choosing you, but in a few years' time you will find that it was he who chose you to be Queen of Sweden", which it seems even Mountbatten realised was a spot-on observation.


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