A pioneering report by the research foundation Fafo has highlighted Norwegians' "stereotypical attitudes" toward race and ethnicity, troubling statisticians and anti-discrimination bureaucrats.
"This is the first survey of its kind to see the grounds of discrimination in context, and we are surprised and concerned about some of the findings. Among other things, it is sad to see that the notion of race and ethnicity gets in the way of who we recognise as Norwegian", Mari Trommald of the Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs told the newspaper Dagbladet.
Fully 39 percent of those questioned believed that people from Somalia can never become "completely Norwegian". Another 22 percent argued that even a person from neighbouring Sweden could never become "fully Norwegianised". Another 16 percent argued that a "dark-skinned person" could never become fully Norwegian either.
About 25 percent of Norwegians admitted to sharing a belief that some human races are more intelligent than others. This belief was reportedly more widespread among the younger age groups.
"The concept of race is somewhat taboo and hasn't attracted much research time. It is discouraging to see that as many as a quarter believe that we have a racial hierarchy where some are more intelligent than others. This was surprising finding, as we see it", Trommald explained.
Furthermore, a third of those questioned responded that they feel fear while walking past a group of Muslim men on the street. Negative attitudes towards women wearing a hijab were also voiced. Some 35 percent of respondents declared themselves completely or partially in agreement with a statement that a woman who wears a hijab can't expect to be treated in the same way as other women in Norway.
However, the list of least desirable neighbours was topped by the Roma (38 percent).
"People have different attitudes to different groups. All groups are protected by law. It's common though to have poor attitudes to some groups. However, people believe that it is okay that these are discriminated against. We are concerned about the consequences of this", Trommald said.
Commenting on the overall results, Trommald said that "Norwegians are quite conservative", finding solace in the fact that most of them "do support anti-discrimination policies". The newspaper Dagbladet went so far as to suggest that a portion of the Norwegian population was racist and believed in theories from "history's dustbin".
Fafo's report aimed at revealing attitudes among Norwegians regarding equality and discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, religion, lifestyles, physical handicaps, and sexual orientation. It also studied attitudes towards measures to ensure equality and weed out "hateful language" in Norway. In total, 4,443 Norwegians spanning all age groups have been questioned.
Traditionally a homogenous nation, Norway gradually opened up for immigration in the second half of the 20th century. Immigration to Norway has skyrocketed over the past decades, starting from the 1990s and peaking at almost 49,000 in 2012.
Today, Norway's immigrant population is estimated at over 880,000 people (or close to 17 percent of the population), as opposed to only 4.3 percent in 1992. Poland, Lithuania, Somalia, Iraq, and Syria are immigrants' most common country of origin.