Norway's right-wing Progress Party has argued that immigration research is “one-sided and politicised”, calling for more diversity of opinion.
“I believe there are grounds to claim that research is politicised and that one is looking for answers that put immigration in a better light”, Progress Party immigration spokesman Jon Helgheim told the newspaper Klassekampen, stressing that most people who work with immigration are on the left.
According to him, the researchers are compelled to ask “unpleasant questions” about the consequences of immigration.
“I do believe the researchers present what they find, but it begs to be answered what they are looking for. We results that seem to be politically motivated”, Helgheim said. “We see an increasing tendency for immigration-critical voices to be kept away from public debate”, he stressed.
According to him, the research foundation Fafo, founded by the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions and focusing on social studies, is a prime example of angled research.
“You have research environments, such as Fafo, which don't always look to find the full and the whole picture, but rather angles that support a myth that immigration is positive.”
To counteract this situation, the Progress Party has put forward a proposal “to put greater demand on openness and diversity of opinion in social research in matters of immigration, integration and crime”. The diversity of opinion is to be ensured, for example, by using research environments outside of Norway to provide a different perspective.
“Had we had more serious and non-political research, we would never even have this discussion about immigration being positive for the nation,” Helgheim said.
Asle Toje, former research director at Norway's Nobel Institute, agreed with Helgheim that the bias is in place.
“We do not have figures on this in Norway, but there is good reason to put such a hypothesis,” Toje said, referring to figures from the US that indicate an overwhelming presence of left-wing liberals in social research and humanities.
According to Toje, the scientists are doing their work in an honest way, but prejudice stems from the way the goals and questions are formulated, as well as different factors being weighed in.
By contrast, Labor party spokesman Martin Henriksen strongly criticised the Progress Party proposal, calling it “a dangerous way to go” and suggesting it would “dictate the content” and “undermine free research”.
Fafo director Tone Fløtten contended that is wrong to suggest that the foundation is concerned with showing positive aspects of immigration.
“Fafo has no view of immigration. Among other things, Fafo researches how integration in Norway works, for example through evaluations of the authorities' measures and of immigrants' living conditions. As an institution, of course, we have no attitude to immigration, and thus no desire that the research will produce specific results”, Fløtten assured.
Previous research, however, has highlighted Norwegian researchers' left-wing sympathies. A 2017 survey indicated that only 1.1 percent of the Researchers' Association supported the right-wing Progress Party, as opposed to 15.3 percent of the general population. By contrast, Norwegian researchers tend to disproportionately favour lesser left-wing parties, such as the Greens, the Socialist Left and the Reds.
Immigration to Norway has greatly increased over the past decades, starting from the 1990s. In 1992, the immigrant population in Norway was 4.3 percent. Today, immigrants make up about 900,000 of Norway's population of 5.3 million (or about 17 percent).