Around 100 students inside a lecture hall at Stockholm University are sitting in front of a huge map of the United States on the screen that is divided into red and blue states.
Paul Levin, an International Relations professor with a keen attraction to American elections, is discussing the complicated Electoral College system. Students are throwing out questions.
Sweden has been gripped by election fever, but in recent days critics have argued that the Swedish media has put too much attention on the US elections.
“China is picking their new leaders as well and that is not reported at all,” says Markus Lyckman, one of the students in the class. “The American election is important also but they are equally important.”
Paul Levin, who also does research at Stockholm University’s Department of Media studies, says the election is important enough to merit all of the coverage. “What happens in the United States does matter…who is in charge matters,” he says.
But Levin also thinks that Swedes pay attention to the American elections because they are “surprisingly Americanized. We have a bit of a love hate relationship to the United States.”
Levin says there is another attraction. “There is a very powerful narrative that is very seductive. It makes for good television. It is like a reality show in a way with real consequences”.
And Thomas Matsson, the editor-in-chief of the tabloid Expressen, totally agrees. “It’s a bit of a sport event because you have two clear candidates and a political system which differs very much from Europe, where we have several political parties and candidates who are involved,” says Matsson.
Expressen showed live online TV from Washington, D.C., and New York City. They also had a studio in Stockholm with commentators and politicians. They were all over the United States, actually inside the homes of Republican and Democrat voters.
And they were not alone – all the big media organizations here did the same thing, including Swedish Television and Swedish Radio.
But besides the entertainment factor, Matsson says it is important to cover the US elections. He agrees that many decisions made by the American president affect Sweden. “There are Swedish forces in Afghanistan right now and those kinds of decisions will be affected by who is in the White House,” he says.