Framing of crisis events is to a large extent contested, with multiple sources and conflicting messages. Theories of crisis communication acknowledge how people try to deal with these competing messages, and this article seeks to deepen the understanding the process of sense making of crisis events by connecting crisis communication to the spiral of silence theory. The spiral of silence theory, founded by Elisabeth Noelle-Neuman, proposes that people are less willing to express their opinions if they believe their beliefs are shared by a minority. This will lead to a spiral in which those who feel their opinions are popular are more inclined to express their opinions, and those who perceive their opinions are unpopular among the public become more silent. This study analyzed changes over time in the willingness to express opinions about the refugee crisis in Europe using a two-wave Web-panel survey (N = 1,185) in Sweden in 2015–2016. The focus is the impact of changing government policy, which moved from a generous refugee policy toward a more restrictive policy. Changes toward a more restrictive refugee policy did not seem to change the overall picture. Those supporting a more restrictive policy were still less inclined to speak their true opinions about the refugee crisis, even if the policy had changed in their favor. On the other hand, respondents supporting a more generous refugee policy seemed to become more cautious about expressing their opinions about the refugee crisis after the policy change, especially when talking to strangers.



Author ORCID Identifier

Bengt Johansson 0000-0002-8980-1677