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Changing attitudes to Swedish wolf policy: wolf return, rural areas, and political alienation
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science.
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In 1966, the grey wolf was listed as a protected species in Sweden. Since then, the Swedish wolf population has increased in size, making human-wolf encounters more common, particularly in rural areas. Previous qualitative research has shown that segments of the rural population perceive the wolf to be incompatible with traditional rural life. Some also believe that the return of the wolf was orchestrated by urban interests, and perceive the wolf policy as a vehicle for the consolidation of urban power in rural areas. Thus, the return of the wolf can be assumed to aggravate pre-existing urban-rural tensions, resulting in conflicts over wolf policy, which Swedish wolf governance could be ill-equipped to handle. In view of this, this thesis is an examination of,

how environmental, socio-political, and institutional factors affect varia-tions in public attitudes to the Swedish wolf policy over time, and discuss their policy implications.

Drawing on extensive survey material collected in Sweden in 2004, 2009, and 2014, the wolf policy is approached from a political science perspective. This thesis is an attempt to bridge a number of existing gaps in literature related to wolves and policy, individual and collective level explanatory factors, and attitude change. The underlying assumption is that environmental, socio-political and institutional factors are likely to impact attitudes to wolf policy. Environmental change is found to be relevant, as direct experiences with wolf have increased over time, a development that was also associated with an increase of support for a more restrictive wolf policy (Paper I). Regarding socio-political change, politically alienated individuals were less likely to support the current wolf policy, and more likely to favor either more, or less restrictive policy options compared to other individuals. Rural areas displayed higher levels of political alienation than urban areas, and people living in rural areas were more likely to favor a more restrictive wolf policy (Paper II). Furthermore, individuals living in municipalities in which a high proportion of residents had grown up in a rural area, tended to favor a more restrictive wolf policy, an effect which could also be associated with political alienation (Paper III). Finally, institutional change was examined through an analysis of public support for the actors within the Wildlife Management Delegations (WMDs). In general, the interest groups represented in WMDs where found to reflect the representation preferred by the public. However, findings show a fundamental value divide in relation to natural resources, among the Swedish public, which is also reflected within the WMDs (Paper IV).

The return of the wolf has caused part of the general public to want fewer wolves in Sweden. This attitudinal change is related to a growing divide between urban-rural areas in Sweden, and associated with a general pattern of political alienation. Thus, the wolf policy has become a symbolic issue around which rural citizens rally their fight against urban interests for political autonomy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 2016. , 62 p.
Series
Statsvetenskapliga institutionens skriftserie, ISSN 0349-0831 ; 2016:4
Keyword [en]
attitude change, political alienation, urban-rural conflict, governance, wolf policy
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
statskunskap
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-128861ISBN: 978-91-7601-632-9 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-128861DiVA: diva2:1057170
Public defence
2017-01-20, Hörsal C, Lindellhallen, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-12-21 Created: 2016-12-16 Last updated: 2017-01-24Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Direct experience and attitude change towards bears and wolves
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Direct experience and attitude change towards bears and wolves
2015 (English)In: Wildlife Biology, ISSN 0909-6396, E-ISSN 1903-220X, Vol. 21, no 3, 131-137 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Understanding how changes in the sizes of large carnivore populations affect the attitudes of the public is vital in order to mitigate social conflicts over large carnivore management issues. Using data from two Swedish postal surveys in 2004 and 2009, we examined the probable social effects of a continued increase in the Swedish populations of bear and wolf by comparing levels of direct experience of bears and wolves with public attitudes towards these animals. We report an increase in direct experience of bears and wolves, lower levels of acceptance of the existence of these animals, and a lower degree of support for the policy goals of both species in 2009 compared to 2004. We also find that these changes are more prominent in areas with local carnivore populations than in other areas of Sweden. Our results imply that attitudes towards bears and wolves are likely to become more negative as populations continue to grow. The uneven distributions of the carnivore populations are likely to generate more frequent social conflicts in the future as they could cause an increase in the attitudinal divide between those members of the Swedish public who have had direct experiences of carnivores and those who have not.

National Category
Fish and Wildlife Management Other Social Sciences
Research subject
statskunskap
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-100507 (URN)10.2981/wlb.00062 (DOI)000354319400003 ()
Available from: 2015-03-03 Created: 2015-03-03 Last updated: 2016-12-19Bibliographically approved
2. Political alienation, rurality and the symbolic role of wolf policy
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Political alienation, rurality and the symbolic role of wolf policy
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
statskunskap
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-128859 (URN)
Available from: 2016-12-16 Created: 2016-12-16 Last updated: 2016-12-16
3. Rurality and Collective Attitude Effects on Wolf Policy
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Rurality and Collective Attitude Effects on Wolf Policy
2016 (English)In: Sustainability, ISSN 2071-1050, E-ISSN 2071-1050, Vol. 8, no 8, 711Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Debates over wolf policy are driven by an underlying attitudinal divide between peoplefrom urban and rural areas. This study explores how the power relationship between urban and ruralgroups interact with individual attitude formation in relation to wolf policy, in order to understandwhy dissatisfaction with wolf policy tends to result in group level conflict patterns. Using Swedishsurvey data, I analyze attitudes to wolf policy, in relation to collective level effects and rural politicalalienation. Findings indicate that individual level attitudes towards the Swedish wolf policy are inpart determined by collective attitude patterns: effects that could be contingent on political alienation.This highlights the possibility of reducing attitude polarization with respect to the wolf policy,by addressing political alienation among the rural population.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Basel: MDPI, 2016
Keyword
wolf, rural-urban divide, political alienation, rurality, conservation policy, collective attitude effects
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
Research subject
statskunskap
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-124743 (URN)10.3390/su8080711 (DOI)000382452900013 ()
Projects
Governing sustainable rural development – for or by the local population?
Funder
Swedish Research Council Formas, 251-2011-117
Available from: 2016-08-23 Created: 2016-08-23 Last updated: 2016-12-16Bibliographically approved
4. Value patterns and input legitimacy, in Swedish wolf governance
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Value patterns and input legitimacy, in Swedish wolf governance
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
statskunskap
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-128860 (URN)
Available from: 2016-12-16 Created: 2016-12-16 Last updated: 2016-12-16

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