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Attitudes towards Swedish-speakers in Finland hardening, survey finds

Swedish speakers in Finland say attitudes towards their linguistic minority have hardened in recent years.

Blue character (in Swedish): "What's your name?" Purple character: "My name is Emilia". Image: Svenska Yle

Sixty-four percent of Swedish speakers said that on a national level, political attitudes towards their linguistic minority have become harsher.

About 5.2 percent of Finland's population are part of the Swedish-speaking minority, but the population has steadily declined since the 18th century, when nearly 20 percent spoke the language. However, Swedish remains one of the country's official languages.

An annual survey charting Swedish speakers' attitudes, Barometern, found that over half of respondents said they believed that the media had adopted an increasingly negative tone regarding Finland's Swedish-speaking Finns.

Many don't see changes

However, on a community level, three-quarters of respondents said they had not experienced any changes for better or worse in the past decade.

In 2009, 77 percent of the Finnish Swedish respondents reported they only spoke Swedish. Today that number has shrunk to 49 percent as more Swedish speakers identify as bilingual Finnish.

The survey, financed by the Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland, was conducted as a citizens’ panel encompassing 4,800 individuals aged 18-85 resident in mainland Finland and the Åland Islands.